Legal Opinion Letter: Last Will and Testament in China

  • Client: Ms. Lee*
  • Nationality: China
  • Type of Case: Last Will and Testament: Litigation in China
  • Challenges:
    • Ex-wife and two daughters claimed inheritance
    • Mr. Lee’s will did not mention Ms. Lee nor her daughter
    • Ex-wife acquired a legal opinion validating the will
    • Mr. Lee’s will explicitly stated that all of his belongings would belong to the ex-wife
    • The case was in Chinese jurisdiction

Desperate, Ms. Lee reached out to Tsang & Associates all the way from China in dire need of assistance. Mr. Lee, Ms. Lee’s husband, had just passed away leaving Ms. Lee and her daughter by themselves in China. When Mr. Lee passed away, his ex-wife claimed that her ex-husband’s property belonged to her, as Mr. Lee’s notarized will specifically stated that he would transfer all the property to her in the event of his death. And as a result, a legal struggle evolved over the possession of Mr. Lee’s assets and property; the court froze all of his assets in China. The ex-wife had already hired an attorney to review and validate the Last Will and Testament of Mr. Lee. Distressed, our client Ms. Lee came to us and asked us to issue a third party legal opinion to be submitted in trial in order to demonstrate that the property left behind by her husband was indeed hers.

Keys to Success

When we first received notice of Ms. Lee’s situation and after speaking with her, we definitely felt for her as she was going through this situation following her husband’s death. Litigation had already started in China and the judge required proof that she had a share in the property left behind. It was extremely hard for her as the ex-wife had already acquired a legal opinion validating the will. However, despite this challenge, we strongly believed that Ms. Lee was eligible to receive Mr. Lee’s belongings. We knew right from the start that there was substantive law that supported our client’s case; her husband’s property would belong to her and her daughter, not the ex-wife.

We proved, using California Probate Code 21610 that Ms. Lee was entitled to protections as a spouse who had been omitted from her husband’s will despite the fact that the will specifically stated that the ex-wife would receive the property left behind. We demonstrated that Mr. Lee had executed his will in November of 2006, but married our client in July of 2007. No way could Mr. Lee have intentionally left out Ms. Lee from his will nor could Ms. Lee have waived her right to share in the estate and property in question; thus this case did not fall under any exception to this code. We were able to show therefore that since Mr. Lee’s marriage to Ms. Lee came after the execution of the will, it was as if the executed will had not even been created and as determined under California Probate Code 100, Ms. Lee was indeed entitled to receive half of her husband’s property. Ultimately, we proved that the letter submitted by the ex-wife’s attorney was irrelevant. The other attorney merely proved that the notarized will fulfilled the requirements of a valid will; this withstanding, we proved that because the will was executed prior to the marriage to Ms. Lee, Mr. Lee’s will was invalid.

By reviewing the entire will that Mr. Lee executed and alluding to California law, we were able to prove that Ms. Lee and her daughter, despite being omitted from the will, were entitled to the property left behind by Mr. Lee, closing off the ex-wife from any foothold given to her in the will that was executed. We proved that the will was no longer valid. Thus, we demonstrated that Ms. Lee and her daughter were to receive their share of the assets left by Mr. Lee, completely blocking the ex-wife from taking any property.

Outcome

After we had our letter authenticated and translated, we sent the document to China to be reviewed. Ms. Lee was successful in her case and was extremely thankful, as she was able to retain the possessions of her deceased husband.

*Name has been changed to protect client identity.