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Probate Registry

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Part I Introduction

1.1 What is Probate?

It is a court order authorising one or more persons to administer the Deceased's estate according to the directions in the Will. The person is referred to as executor.

1.2 What are Letters of Administration?

It is a court order authorising one or more persons to administer the Deceased's estate in accordance with the law. The person is referred to as administrator.

1.3 What are Letters of Administration (with Will annexed)?

It is a court order authorising one or more persons to administer the Deceased's estate in accordance with the directions in the Will when no executor is appointed or no executor is able or willing to act for whatever reasons. The person is also referred to as administrator.

1.4 What is a Grant?

It includes Probate, Letters of Administration or Letters of Administration (with Will annexed).

 

Part II The Probate Registry

2.1 Why was the Probate Registry established?

The Probate and Administration Ordinance (Cap.10) delegates the power to issue Grant to the High Court. The Registrar of the High Court is asked to exercise such power and process all non-contentious applications. To assist him in discharging his duties, the Probate Registry has been established as part and parcel of the Judiciary.

2.2 What does Probate Registry do?

The Probate Registry helps the Registrar to process applications and raise requisitions to make sure that the Grant will be issued to the right person under the law. It also assists him to carry out other functions under the law including performing the functions of the Official Administrator.

 

Part III The Official Administrator

3.1 Who is Official Administrator?

The Registrar of the High Court is the ex officio Official Administrator.

3.2 What does he do?

The Official Administrator provides an inexpensive way of dealing with estates of small value. He helps the beneficiaries to obtain money summarily under the estate.

3.3 Under what circumstances the Official Administrator will help to administer the estate in a summary manner?

The Official Administrator will usually get in and administer summarily an estate, not exceeding $150,000, made up of cash in hand, money at banks and/or Mandatory Provident Fund.

3.4 Does the Official Administrator charge?

The Official Administrator charges a commission based on the gross value of an estate at the rate of:

(a) 5% ............................... first $1,000
(b) 2.5%............................. next $4,000
(c) 1% ................................ balance

 

Part IV What should I do?

4.1 What should I do if I want to administer an estate?

It is a difficult question to answer because it depends on a number of factors. Nonetheless, if the Deceased died domiciled in Hong Kong and his estate is also located in Hong Kong, you may consider two matters first, namely:

(a) the date of death of the Deceased, and
(b) the value and nature of the estate.

 

Part V Death before 11 February 2006

5.1 What do I do first?

You must attend the Estate Duty Office of the Inland Revenue Department to apply and obtain the necessary estate duty clearance papers.

5.2 What should I do next?

You may apply to the Official Administrator for his assistance by summary administration if the estate meets the circumstances mentioned in paragraph 3.3 above.

5.3 What do I do if the Official Administrator is not able to help me?

You may seek assistance from the Public Application Section of the Probate Registry to apply for a Grant.

The Public Application Section will usually be able to help if:

(a) the application seems simple,
(b) the estate is not complex, or
(c) the Registrar considers it proper to offer help.

5.4 What should I do if the Public Application Section is unable to help me?

In such case, you should consider seeking legal advice. A list of solicitors' firms published by the Law Society of Hong Kong is available for perusal at the Probate Registry.

 

Part VI Death on or after 11 February 2006

6.1 What do I do first?

Please check what the Deceased has left. If he rented a bank safe deposit box on his own or jointly with others, you should follow the procedures as set out in the relevant pamphlet issued by the Home Affairs Department to apply for inspection of the box, taking inventory and removal of the Will of the Deceased, if any.

6.2 What should I do next?

If you need money urgently for funeral expenses or maintenance of former dependents of the Deceased, or that the estate consists of money only not exceeding $50,000, you should also follow the procedures as set out in the relevant pamphlet issued by the Home Affairs Department to seek assistance.

6.3 What do I do if the Home Affairs Department cannot help me?

You may apply to the Official Administrator for his assistance by summary administration if the estate meets the circumstances mentioned in paragraph 3.3 above.

6.4 What then if the Official Administrator is not able to help me?

You may seek assistance from the Public Application Section of the Probate Registry to apply for a Grant.

The Public Application Section will usually be able to help if:

(a) the application seems simple,
(b) the estate is not complex, or
(c) the Registrar considers it proper to offer help.

6.5 What should I do if the Public Application Section is unable to help me?

In such case, you should consider seeking legal advice. A list of solicitors' firms published by the Law Society of Hong Kong is available for perusal at the Probate Registry.

 

Part VII Who can apply for a Grant?

7.1 If the Deceased left a Will, who can apply for the Grant?

Usually, it is the executor who should submit the application.

7.2 What if no executor is appointed or that no executor is able or willing to act for whatever reasons?

Rule 19 of the Non-Contentious Probate Rules (Cap.10A) governs the order of priority for different persons to make the application. To answer this question requires an understanding of some technical terms in the rule and an interpretation of the subject Will. You should consider seeking legal advice in case of doubt.

7.3 If the Deceased did not leave a Will, who can apply for the Grant?

Rule 21 of the Non-Contentious Probate Rules (Cap.10A) regulates it. In simple words, the order of priority is:

(a) spouse,
(b) the child or one of the children of the Deceased,
(c) the father or mother of the Deceased,
(d) the brother or sister of the Deceased.

7.4 Who should make the application?

As a matter of general rule, the one with higher priority should file the application for Grant. However, a person having a lower priority may still be entitled to the Grant if the persons with higher priority have either died or renounced their rights to the Grant. Evidence of death or renunciation has to be filed with the Probate Registry.

 

Part VIII What should I note in relation to an application for Grant?

8.1 May I make an application for Grant in person?

Rule 4(1) of the Non-Contentious Probate Rules (Cap.10A) allows you to do so.

8.2 Can I apply through an attorney?

A person may apply through his lawfully constituted attorney if he resides outside Hong Kong and is entitled to the Grant himself.

8.3 Should I engage a solicitor?

It is a matter of your own choice. You may wish to engage a solicitor to help in applying for the Grant if:

(a) the application seems complicated and/or the estate is complex, and/or
(b) you are not familiar with the legal procedures such as preparation and filing of the necessary papers.

8.4 Can the staff at the Probate Registry help me?

The staff of Probate Registry will try their best endeavors to assist you on procedural matters in relation to an application for Grant. However, you should note Rule 4(8) of the Non-Contentious Probate Rules (Cap.10A) states clearly that no legal advice shall be given to a personal applicant by any person in the Probate Registry.

8.5 Can I apply through an agent?

Rule 4(2) of the Non-Contentious Probate Rules (Cap.10A) aims at preventing persons, who are not qualified solicitors, from providing legal services. The rule prohibits application through an agent, whether paid or unpaid. Further, the personal applicant may not be attended by any person acting or appearing to act as his adviser.

8.6 Is there any requirement as to the number of applicant(s)?

You should notice that a Grant shall be issued to:

(a) not more than four persons, and
(b) not less than 2 persons for an estate involving minor beneficiary and/or someone who is entitled to enjoy an interest for life (commonly known as minority and/or life interest respectively).

 

Part IX How can I apply for a Grant?

9.1 What documents should I prepare?

You should complete the appropriate Specified Form(s). They are available in hard copies at the Probate Registry and in soft copies on its website. Further, you have to bring along all relevant documents, papers and evidence proving your entitlement to the Grant.

9.2 How should I complete the Specified Forms?

You are suggested to read carefully "The Guide to the Specified Forms" issued by the Registrar of the High Court. Copies are available at the Probate Registry or you can download the document from its website. You may also consult your solicitor.

9.3 Can I apply for the Grant by post?

You must attend personally the Probate Registry to apply for a Grant because Rule 4(9) of the Non-Contentious Probate Rules (Cap.10A) does not allow application by post.

 

Part X Fees for the Grant

10.1 Do I need to pay if I apply for a Grant?

Court fees are payable in accordance with the Second Schedule of the High Court Fees Rule (Cap.4D).

10.2 For persons who died before 11 February 2006, what are the court fees?

They include:

(a) $265 fee for filing an application,
(b) $72 fee for engrossment of a Grant, and
(c) Scale fee for processing an application for Grant:

If the estate is sworn under the net value of

$
10,000
................................
$
160
$
20,000
................................
$
320
$
50,000
................................
$
640
$
100,000
................................
$
800
$
200,000
................................
$
1,200
$
300,000
................................
$
1,600
$
400,000
................................
$
2,400
$
600,000
................................
$
3,200
$
800,000
................................
$
4,000
$
1,000,000
................................
$
4,800

and $400 for every additional $100,000 or part thereof.

10.3 For persons who died on or after 11 February 2006, what are the court fees?

The usual fees are:

(a) $265 fee for filing an application, and
(b) $72 fee for engrossment of a Grant.

Please note that there will be no more scale fee for processing an application for Grant.

 

Part XI Usual Questions

11.1 How long will it take for a Grant to be issued?

A Grant will be issued once you have met all the legal requirements and answered the enquiries to the satisfaction of the Registrar. The length of time required varies from one case to another. For simple and straightforward case, it usually takes about 5 to 7 weeks on average. However, if the application is complicated and/or the estate is complex, you might need to wait longer.

11.2 How many times I have to attend the Probate Registry?

Since the Registrar is entrusted with the obligation to check carefully the entitlement of the applicant to the Grant, you might be required to attend the Probate Registry for more than once to submit additional information and file further documents or evidence.

11.3 Why does the staff at the Probate Registry have to ask questions and request for documents?

The Probate Jurisdiction is inquisitioral. The Grant is an important legal document which usually authorises the grantee to deal with the estate without limitation. Hence, the Registrar is under a duty to make inquiries and see that they are answered satisfactorily.

11.4 Could I get back the documents filed?

All documents filed form part of the court record and are usually not to be returned. You may however apply for photocopies of them upon payment of the prescribed fees. On the other hand, after a period of 6 months from the date of the issue of the Grant, you may apply, on good grounds, for the return of the original marriage certificates, birth certificates and death certificates (other than that of the Deceased) from the Registrar who will make a decision on your application according to the circumstances. If your request is agreed, the Registrar will usually ask you to acknowledge receipt of the original document, undertake to return it upon request and provide him with a photocopy for the court record.

11.5 In respect of the estate of the Deceased situate in Hong Kong, will the Probate Registry issue 2 grants of representation (One in Chinese and one in English)?

This Registry only issues one grant of representation in respect of the estate of the Deceased situate in Hong Kong in the official language (Chinese or English) used by the applicant in the application for grant.

 

Part XII Funeral Expenses

12.1 What do I do if the Deceased left money in his bank account for his funeral expenses?

You should follow the procedures as set out in the relevant pamphlet issued by the Home Affairs Department to seek assistance.

12.2 What should I do if I have paid the funeral expenses for the Deceased who left an estate barely over such expenses?

You may apply to the Official Administrator for his assistance by summary administration to claim reimbursement of the funeral expenses if the estate meets the circumstances as per paragraph 3.3 above.

12.3 What happens to the unclaimed balance of an estate administered by the Official Administrator?

Any balance of the estate leaving unclaimed for 5 years thereafter will be transferred to the general revenue of the government.

 

Part XIII Authentication

13.1 What is authentication?

It is the process of proving that a foreign public document is genuine.

13.2 Why does the Probate Registry ask me to authenticate the foreign public documents?

Each foreign public document serves a particular purpose. For example, a marriage certificate proves a valid marriage, a death certificate confirms the death of a person, and a birth certificate shows the identity of one's parents. However, different countries issue different public documents in different forms and languages. It is a common practice that a foreign public document can only be accepted if it is authenticated. The Probate Registry follows that practice.

13.3 How can I obtain authentication of a foreign public document?

(a) For country or territory who has participated in Hague Convention abolishing the requirement of legalization for foreign public documents, one step is required. You need to take the public document to the proper authority in that country and obtain a Certificate of Apostille certifying the signatures and/or seal of the issuing authority.

(b) For country or territory who has not participated in Hague Convention abolishing the requirement of legalization, two steps are necessary. You need to:

(i) take the public document to the proper authority (or foreign ministry office, as the case may be) in that country or territory for a certification that the signature and/or seal of the issuing authority on the public document are/is true, and

(ii) pass that public document to the Chinese Embassy or Consulate in that country or territory for a second certification of the certification by the said proper authority (or foreign ministry office).

13.4 Which countries or territories have participated in the Hague Convention abolishing the requirement of legalization for foreign public documents?

Subject to changes from time to time, currently, they include Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom & Northern Ireland and United States of America. Please check with the Probate Registry in case of doubt.

13.5 What about public documents issued by the authorities in the Mainland?

The established practice requires 2 steps to be taken.

You have to:

(a) obtain a notarial certificate from the local notarial office, and
(b) arrange to have that notarial certificate passed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China for a certification that the signature and/or seal on the local notarial office are/is true.

13.6 Do I need to prepare for translation of the documents?

Both Chinese and English are official languages in Hong Kong. Therefore, any document that is not in either Chinese or English has to be translated.

13.7 Which one should I do first: authentication or translation?

Authentication is to be done on the original foreign public document and not the translation. Therefore, you shall do the authentication first, followed by translation of the authenticated foreign public document, if necessary.

 

Part XIV Amendment of Grant

14.1 What should the administrator do if additional properties of the Deceased are found after issuance of the grant?

The administrator may apply personally or through a firm of solicitors for amendment of the grant.

14.2 What points should be noted when the administrator applies personally for amendment of the grant?

(a) If the death occurred before 11 February 2006, the Administrator should approach the Estate Duty Office first with the grant and all documents in relation to the additional properties of the Deceased for amendment of the estate duty papers; and upon receiving the notice from the Estate Duty Office, apply to the Probate Registry for amendment of the grant.

(b) If the death occurred on or after 11 February 2006, the Administrator should bring along the grant and all documents in relation to the additional properties of the Deceased to apply for amendment of the grant at the Probate Registry.

 

Part XV Performance Pledges

15.1 If the Public Application Section of the Probate Registry has assisted me to submit the application, when will I get the Grant?

It takes about 5 to 7 weeks upon payment of all court fees and when all requisitions have been complied with.

15.2 If I have instructed a solicitor to help me, how will the application be processed?

The Probate Registry agrees to:

(a) send letter of requisitions, if any, to your solicitors within 28 working days after the application has been filed, and
(b) issue the Grant within 28 working days upon payment of all court fees and when all requisitions have been complied with.

15.3 Will the Probate Registry answer my letter?

The Probate Registry always tries to give immediate reply to any inquiry from the members of the public. In case that it is not possible to do so, an interim reply will be given within 10 days and, a full response within 30 days upon receipt of your letter.

 

Part XVI Opening Hours and Appointment System

16.1 What are the business opening hours of the Probate Registry?

(a) It opens on: -

Monday to Friday: 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. and
                                2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Saturday:    9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon

(b) It closes on Sunday and Public Holidays.

16.2 Do I have to make a prior appointment before attending the Public Application Section of the Probate Registry?

(a) For the purpose of making general enquiry, you need not make any prior appointment. You may also do so through our enquiry hotline at 2840 1683.

(b) However, if you wish to be assisted by the Public Application Section in your application for grant, you may make an appointment with our processing officer through:

(i) the hotline 2840 1683 during office hours; or
(ii) personal attendance at the Probate Registry (Address: LG3, High Court, 38 Queensway, Hong Kong); or
(iii) the website of the Judiciary
(The on-line appointment can only be offered where
(1) the deceased died in Hong Kong without leaving a Will; and
(2) the deceased was a permanent Hong Kong Resident; and
(3) the applicant is the surviving spouse / child / father or mother of the deceased, as the case may be; and
(4) the application seems simple and straightforward and the estate is not complex in combination; and
(5) the applicant is mentally and physically capable of handling the procedural matters in relation to an application for Grant; and
(6) all supporting documents must be issued by Hong Kong authorities.)

16.3 What are the arrangements of the Probate Registry in case of bad weather?

(i) Please take notice of the announcements of the Judiciary through radio, television or other media. You may also call us at your earliest convenience to reschedule the appointment if necessary.
(ii) Please refer to Typhoon and Rainstorm Warning Arrangements in the Judiciary Website.

 

Part XVII Means of Contact

17.1 Where is the Probate Registry?

17.2 What is the telephone number of the Probate Registry?

17.3 What is its facsimile number?

17.4 What is the website address?

Please visit http://www.judiciary.gov.hk

17.5 What should I do if I have comments on the Probate Registry?

We always welcome suggestions and appraisals. You may wish to send them to the Judiciary Administrator by letter addressed to the High Court, 38 Queensway, Hong Kong. Please also do not hesitate to contact the Probate Registry if you have any query.

 

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