The battle over the wishes of Nina Wang, Asia's richest woman before she died, has been taking center stage in the Hong Kong courts for several weeks. The probate trial is reaching its high point with the testimony of Feng Shui adviser Tony Chan.
He contends Wang's 2006 will left him everything -- some $13 billion dollars. Wang's prior will gave her estate to charity and family members. Their lawyers contend Chan is not only lying, but is guilty of fraud, forgery, undue influence and taking advantage of a woman almost 20 years older than he. My previous article about the will contest trial details the allegations, as well the early fireworks when the trial started.
But those were just the appetizers. Tony Chan has taken the stand to plead his case for the riches. He said he met Wang on March 12, 1992 at a luncheon, where she asked for his help locating her husband. Wang's husband, Teddy Wang had been missing since being kidnapped in 1990.
Interestingly, his death led to Nina's multi-billion dollar fortune, but only after she was forced to battle her father-in-law who believed that Teddy Wang's will was forged. In fact, after a long trial -- very similar to the one ongoing now -- Nina Wang was found to have forged the will, which led to criminal charges in addition to losing the money. After many appeals, Nina Wang was cleared of the charges and the disputed will stood. She was fortunate indeed.
Tony Chan hopes to have a similar fortune. In fact, the role of fortune sparked his relationship with Wang, he says. As a feng shui adviser (his career choice after working in turn as a bartender, waiter, salesman, trader and market researcher), Chan said he couldn't help locate Wang's missing husband, but he could use a book that his father had given him to help improve Wang's fortune. Once he successfully improved her luck, then she might find her husband.
So their relationship began. It began, innocently enough, with a $50,000 head rub. It progressed from there to hole digging.
Chan testified he encouraged Wang to dig holes at properties owned by her husband's company, to help improve her luck. But the hole digging served another purpose, Chan said. It was like a game married couples play. [Author's note -- I've been married 13 happy years, and we've yet to try a hole-digging game. But then again, we've yet to incorporate advanced feng shui techniques into our life.]
This tied into an important angle of the case. Chan and Wang did not share a typical relationship as feng shui adviser and customer. Rather, they were deeply in love, according to Chan. And they loved to spend time together, having fun.
"We played every day. We shared many activities every day. Feng shui was one of our interests, but we also liked to play with model helicopters. We cooked together, we traveled together," he said.
Of course, their love affair started while Chan was married to another woman, who happened to be pregnant with his eldest son at the time.
And what proof does Chan have of their love? Why videotape, of course. The video, entered as evidence at the trial, shows the couple burning money and incense at a temple in Hong Kong. Chan said they used the ceremony to drink wine and inform "the god" that they were together. The video was to commemorate the happy occasion.
The charity's attorney called Chan a liar at trial. He believes that Chan is a fraud. Apparently the man doesn't believe in true love.
This trial is far from over. Certainly there is more feng shui and fun on the horizon.
Most cases involving undue influence, fraud and other legal challenges to wills are not quite this unusual or intriguing. In fact, they are often emotional and difficult for all involved. And it is often hard to tell when someone was taken advantage of, or when the last will and testament truly did reflect the person's last wishes.
That's why families cannot afford to stand by when they suspect that an elderly loved one is being coerced by someone else. Everyone owes it to their loved ones and their families to help protect people who might be faced with a situation like this one.
Of course, that's not to say that Chan is guilty of all that he is accused of. Wang was quite an usual character, and perhaps she truly did love Chan and want to leave him everything. It will be interesting to see what the Hong Kong jury has to say about it.
Posted by: Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founder and shareholder of The Center for Probate Litigation and The Center for Elder Law in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law. You can email him at awmayoras @ brmmlaw.com.Follow us on Google+