My loved one passed away and held assets in Hong Kong, what do I do now?
Losing a loved one is undoubtedly a challenging experience. But dealing with their assets and financial affairs adds an additional layer of complexity and stress to the grieving process. If your loved one held assets or accounts in Hong Kong, it is essential to understand the often intricate steps involved in managing and distributing those assets.
Whether it is bank accounts, property, investments or other assets, this article aims to shed light on the procedures, requirements and expected timeline when handling the deceased's Hong Kong assets.
Author: Kelly Leung, Trainee Solicitor
Seeking Authority to Manage Assets through Estate Grants
A common inquiry we receive from clients who recently lost a relative with Hong Kong assets is –
"My father/mother/spouse passed away and had bank accounts/property in Hong Kong. How do I access and close those accounts and distribute the funds?"
Many assume the next-of-kin can directly notify institutions and collect the assets. But the process is more complex in Hong Kong. Officially, assets like bank accounts can only be closed and funds released with a Grant of Representation issued by the Probate Registry.
What is a Grant and Why is it Needed?
In simple terms, a Grant is a court order that gives legal authority to an individual to manage and administer the estate of the deceased. Banks, insurers and other custodians of assets insist on a Grant before giving access or transferring ownership from the deceased.
The two main types of Grants are the Grant of Probate and Letters of Administration.
Who Can Apply for a Grant?
If the deceased left a Will, the executor(s) named in the Will should apply for a Grant of Probate. For cases where the deceased died without a Will, Hong Kong's Non-Contentious Probate Rules specify an order of priority amongst relatives who can apply to be estate administrators:
Children of the deceased
Parents of the deceased
Siblings of the deceased
Documents Needed for Grant Application
The Grant application process involves collating various supporting documents and filing them along with the application to the Probate Registry. The key supporting documents required are:
Will of the deceased
Copy of ID / Passport of the deceased and the applicant …
All foreign-issued documents require notarization and consular legalization. The document requirements may vary case by case, so it is advisable to engage a probate lawyer to ensure proper compliance. Our firm has a great deal of experience with this process.
Applying Through a Lawyer Streamlines the Process
Given the procedural complexities involved, it is recommended to authorize a probate lawyer to act on one's behalf for securing the Grant. The lawyer can source the right documents, get translations and authentications done, correctly prepare the paperwork, follow up with the Probate Registry, and obtain the Grant on the applicant's behalf much more smoothly.
How Long Does the Grant Application Process Take?
Once all the necessary supporting documents are in order, it is common practice to entrust the lawyers with the preparation of the Grant application. The entire process, from the submission of the application to the issuance of the Grant, typically takes a few months to complete. This duration accounts for the fact that the Court often raises requisitions or requests for additional information during the application processing stage. These requisitions may extend the overall timeline.
The Final Words
Whether the deceased died overseas or not, as long as the deceased held assets in Hong Kong and would like to administer the estate, it is the default position that authorities in Hong Kong (i.e. banks) will only deal with the estate of the deceased, once they have the Grant issued by the Hong Kong courts to verify who is entitled to administer the estate. This requirement ensures proper administration and safeguarding of the estate's assets according to the laws and regulations in Hong Kong.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is general in nature and does not constitute legal advice of any kind. You should seek your own personal legal advice before taking legal action. We accept no liability whatsoever for loss arising out of the use or misuse of this article.
For specific advice about your situation, please contact:
+852 2388 3899