明報 Ming Pao News | 遺囑非有錢人專利

明報 Ming Pao News | 遺囑非有錢人專利

明報 Ming Pao News | 遺囑非有錢人專利 900 506 Hugill & Ip
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一紙遺囑可以減省後人辦事的過程及煩惱,但遺囑的辦理若欠缺專業知識指導,尤其牽涉不同國家的海外資產的複雜問題,一有不慎麻煩隨時大增。所以,若要為後輩打點好身後的財產分配,最好透過有相應知識和經驗的專業人士根據家庭狀况和資產分佈全面檢視所需,做出合心意的遺囑,以減低可能分配財產時可能出現的問題和紛爭。

高葉律師行(Hugill & Ip Solicitors) 創始人兼合伙人葉煥信(Alfred Ip)表示,訂立遺囑不是有錢人的專利,也非只有龐大資產才需要動用遺囑分配,「遺囑的一大功用,其實是要減少後輩將來為你辦事的麻煩」。

遺產承辦問題多多 數千元可輕鬆解決

葉律師表示,在世者辦理遺產承辦時出現的問題個案多不勝數,例如先人過世後才發現有不止一次的婚姻紀錄、其他子女、未完成的離婚手續等等,導致繼承權出現變化,後人需花費大量時間、金錢及心力去處理無數繁瑣的手續。即使沒有不為人知的家庭紀錄,但上一代婚嫁只講求「三書六禮」,後人要得到法庭認可的證明也絕非易事。不過,這一切的麻煩,其實只需花費數千元、辦理一張合適的遺囑,即可輕鬆地把問題解決。

然而,要辦理合適而有效的遺囑,也有很多需要注意的地方,尤其是涉及處於不同國家的海外資產,例如香港人最喜歡的物業。
近年,港人在海外投資物業蔚然成風,除了要處理當地的稅務問題,也會牽涉複雜的遺產繼承法律問題。葉律師表示,海外資產的處理非常複雜,視乎不同國家,部分是要根據資產所在地的外國法律處理,部分是跟從逝者的居籍地法例處理,即如本身是香港居民,就會跟從香港的法例處理這些資產。
簡單例子,如港人在英國有物業,只要有遺囑,香港法庭發出的遺產承辦可在英國加簽,繼承資產的過程相對簡單;一旦沒有遺囑,就需要以當地的法律處理,跟從英國的沒有遺囑繼承規則去決定誰人有資格繼承遺產。同一件事如果發生在泰國,則完全另一回事。港人如在泰國持有物業,業主過世後,當地資產需根據當地法律去決定遺產分配。即使有遺囑,若遺囑不被泰國法律所承認,遺囑一樣會失效。
所以,葉律師建議如港人在外地擁有資產,就要視乎資產的所在地及種類,向專業人士尋求意見,了解香港遺囑在當地是否生效。「如果海外物業是打算善價而沽,是否要為其訂立遺囑就悉隨尊便。不過,若打算是長期持有收租,就應該做好遺產規劃。」

各國對遺囑要求不一 需留意當地法律

由於不同國家對遺囑有不同要求,香港訂立的遺囑未必能在其他國家實行,所以,葉律師指需要就資產的所在地的法律要求,去決定是否需要在當地另外訂立遺囑以符合所需。
在不同國家訂立遺囑自有不同要求,簡單如普通法和民法法系管轄區對遺囑的基本要求已經大有不同。「民法法系管轄區在遺囑上有一套做法,指定所有直系家屬,例如配偶、子女,都必須獲得一定份額的財產分配。如其中有人得不到分配,遺囑有機會不獲承認。」

留意勿讓新立遺囑撤銷舊遺囑

另外,葉律師亦叮囑在不同國家訂立遺囑時,必須小心不要讓新立的遺囑撤銷此前在其他國家訂立的遺囑。「起草遺囑內容時,第一句『我現在確認把之前訂立的遺囑予以撤銷』,而當中若不指明這句只限於當地的資產,那麼之前在其他地方訂立的所有遺囑,就會被一次過全部註銷。」葉律師指,這類因為小錯誤而引起大麻煩的個案不在少數。曾經有人在南非訂立一張新遺囑時錯誤地把其他遺囑註銷,最後只得南非的一張生效,可是南非的遺囑卻只處理當地的資產,變相其他資產不能根據原先的遺囑處理。

勿為節省律師費 為後人帶來莫大煩惱

葉律師表示,這類個案引申出訂立遺囑時的另一個要點,那就是必須透過專業人士全方位地作出檢視,不要貪一時之快,或為節省律師費造成的低技術錯誤,而為後人帶來莫大煩惱。
對於什麼時候應該訂立遺囑這個問題,葉律師指要視乎自己身邊是否有受養者。萬一離世,而受養者的生活會因為失去家庭支柱而變得徬徨無助,需要憑藉或依賴遺產才能維生。如身邊有這樣的受養者,就更應該要為他們訂立遺囑去簡化遺產申領過程,讓他們的生活得以盡快重回軌道。

訂遺囑非一勞永逸 需適時檢視

即使訂立了第一張遺囑,也不代表就此一勞永逸。葉律師表示,遺囑是要與時並進的,原因是資產會有增減,譬如當海外資產增加而導致有額外的稅務考慮,遺囑就要因應改變而重做。除此之外,遇上不同的人生階段,例如婚姻狀態轉變、生兒育女等,都要適時檢視遺囑內容有否需要更改。

Synopsis in English

Writing a Will can spare quite a lot of trouble to future generations – provided that it is drafted by an experienced Estate Planning professional, in particular when complicated issues are involved such as assets located in different jurisdictions. Each family situation might differ and thorough Estate Planning is not just a feature of the wealthy: it spares future generations with the complications of a messy Probate process.

Alfred Ip highlighted how inheritance rights get impacted by family situations which arise only after someone has passed away: multiple marriage records, children born out of the wedlock, unfinished divorce proceedings are common examples that complicate probate proceedings and create unnecessary costs – which could be preempted through proper planning.

Further complications arise when overseas assets are involved. In the past decades, it is common for many Hong Kong residents to invest in overseas properties, so professional advice when handling issues related to inheritance, tax, domicile is key. A straightforward example is how property in The UK and Thailand are considered differently by local inheritance law and a Hong Kong Will might not be enforceable. Due to differences between civil law and common law jurisdictions, local rules – in particular forced heirship rules – should be taken into account when drafting a Will. It is also common for multiple Wills to revoke each other. Sometimes small mistakes can cause a lot of trouble. Alfred Ip mentioned about a case of a Will drafted in South Africa revoked other Wills, creating a messy situation when assets in other jurisdictions become intestate.

In many circumstances, trying to save money and not relying on professional legal advice can create a lot of trouble, resulting in huge costs and post-death distress for family members who will be left to deal with a very messy situation and a very complex probate process.

As a matter of fact, Estate Planning is an ongoing process, in fact family and wealth situations vary with time. It is extremely important to review and adjust plans through one’s lifetime.


The article was originally published on MING PAO NEWS

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