In a recent case, a man died in Australia. He left behind a wife and two children, and an estate valued at over $50,000,000.00. He had assets in Australia, Hong Kong and China. He had not made a will to specify how his assets were to be divided after his death.
He was born and raised in China, and most of his assets were located there. It was unclear if his estate was to be decided in an Australian or Chinese Court. His mother, who lived in China, went to Court in both Australia and China to claim the son’s property. The mother made claims that her son had intentions to move back to China once his children had completed their Australian secondary education, and had resolved various business issues in Australia. The man’s brother claimed that the man suffered from depression and anxiety due to the loneliness of being separated from his family and friends in China while he was in Australia.
The man, along with his wife and two children since moving to Australia in 2012 had become citizens of Australia and seemingly planned to stay in Australia indefinitely. In gaining Australian citizenship, he automatically lost his Chinese citizenship. The Australian Court found that due to the man’s Australian citizenship and fixed residence within Australia, his estate was to be administered without the involvement of the Chinese Courts. As a result of this, the mother had no entitlement to any of his assets.
This case shows that if you wish to reduce the risk of confusion and expensive, drawn-out Court proceedings, you must have a validly drawn up will. This is particularly the case where you have assets in multiple countries. We recommend that you consider having a will in each country in which you have assets.