Wills and Inheritance Law in Hong Kong
Key information to understand the various types of will available in Hong Kong, and how to go about making one. Also an overview of the inheritance implications for a foreigner and their family resident in Hong Kong...
It is recommended that anyone living in Hong Kong draw up a Last Will and Testament. The purpose of a Will is to communicate the wishes of a person with regards to their personal possessions and the treatment of their remains after death. It is a document in writing which states their desired beneficiaries (within the limitations of the law).
A Will made legally in Hong Kong can apply to property in Hong Kong and (depending on the laws of the country) elsewhere in the world. It can also state the chosen executors, assign guardians to children under 18 years and declare how assets and property should be divided between heirs. Legal advice is recommended in the making of a Will, particularly if assets are held elsewhere in the world.
Writing a Will
According to the Hong Kong Wills Ordinance, a Will is only valid if:
- it is in writing, and signed by the testator (or by someone on their instruction and in their presence)
- it appears to be an honest and true reflection of the testators wishes
- the testator signs in the presence of at least two witnesses who both also sign in the presence of the will-maker
A Will can be made with the help of an authorised notary where it is written and witnessed before being lodged for safekeeping. Some Consulates in Hong Kong have a Notary Office allowing a person to have a public testament drafted or deposit a Will.
A Holographic Will is handwritten by the will-maker and witnessed by two adults. It does not need to be drafted by, or lodged at a Notary Office (although it is recommended to deposit it with a notary to ensure immediate action on the will-maker's death).
Changing and revoking a Will
Wills can be changed within the document or have a codicil added at any point. Changes must be signed by the testator.
A Will can only be revoked by another valid will, written revocation by the will-maker, the physical destruction of the document by the testator (or by someone doing so on their order and in their presence) or by marriage, under certain circumstances (Click here).
No Will - dying intestate
Where a Hong Kong resident dies without having made a Will (intestate), the disposal of assets is handled by the Hong Kong Court System and Hong Kong Intestate Law prevails. Where assets are held without a Will in another country, the laws of that country prevail.
There is no inheritance tax in Hong Kong; estate tax was abolished in early 2006 and there are no wealth or gift taxes.
- The Hong Kong Home Affairs Bureau has comprehensive information on Inheritance Law in Hong Kong: Click here