Tsao Chi Ching v Tsao Lung May
Court of First Instance
Caveat No 2054 of 2012
Master Katina Levy in Chambers
15 January, 7 February 2013

Entitlement to grant of administration — dispute between two applicants with equal entitlement to grant

The deceased (“X”) died intestate leaving seven children - including a son (“C”) and a daughter (“M”) - equally entitled to a share of the estate and administration. C and M each applied for letters of administration. C issued a summons to dispose of the dispute in his favour and also entered a caveat claiming that: (a) M was of bad character in having improperly and unfairly distributed their late mother’s (“W”) estate (“W’s Estate”); (b) he had a majority of interest, namely the support of three siblings, whereas M had none; and (c) M was personally objectionable to other beneficiaries. The estate, as filed by M, included movable assets totalling HK$5 million; a property in which C was staying pending completion of the administration; and a liability of HK$5 million owing to M.

Held, granting C’s application and dismissing M’s application, that, inter alia:

C had not shown that M was of bad character rendering her unfit to act; the siblings were content to entrust X’s care to M. Further, the suggestion that M could not administer X’s estate given her bad track record in handling W’s Estate lacked foundation.

C’s second objection however, seemed valid - he clearly had majority support among his siblings and while not of itself decisive, it would be a factor, by practice, which weighed in his favour. M’s purported interest as a major creditor of X’s estate was also incompatible with the estate’ interest. M had not disclosed to her siblings the alleged liability of HK$5 million, which comprised the bulk of X’s estate. This may hence result in an apparent conflict of interest if she was administratrix.

However, given that C might remain in occupation of an apartment under the estate until it was sold, he should be particularly vigilant when acting as administrator so as not to create conflict.