Anyone responsible for dealing with the estate is generally known as a 'Personal Representative', who will either be the 'executor' or 'administrator' depending on whether there is a Will.
- If there is a Will, this person will be named as the 'executor'.
- If there is no Will, the law of intestacy will apply and the immediate next of kin will usually be named as the ‘administrator’.
If you are the Personal Representative, your duties are to:
- Make an inventory of everything in the deceased’s estate and work out the total value.
- Calculate and settle any tax liabilities.
- Apply for the legal right to deal with the estate. Please refer to the next section for details.
- Collect all assets (such as shares and investments) and settle any debts, including mortgages and loans.
- Distribute the estate to the beneficiaries.
If you are the Personal Representative, you can decide whether you want to:
- Deal with the estate yourself; or
- Appoint a solicitor to handle some or all of the estate for you.
Is Probate required?
Probate is a general term to describe the process to apply for the legal right to deal with an estate.
Probate is required for the handling of the estate of the deceased. However, Probate is not required where all the deceased’s assets are held jointly with another person and the assets pass automatically to the joint owner. If the deceased held with us a joint account with another person, the joint account holder(s) will need to show us the original or certified copy of Death Certificate of the deceased in order for us to change the ownership to the account1. For a jointly held mortgage or Safe Deposit Locker, different procedures apply and they are explained in more detail in the 'Sorting out any HSBC accounts' section.
Where the value of the deceased assets held in their sole name does not exceed HKD50,000, a Confirmation Notice, instead of a Probate, may suffice. For further details, see 'Handling small estate' section below.
1 Assets held in joint named accounts will be passed to the surviving account holder(s) upon the death of one of the joint account holders pursuant to the terms of the HSBC Hong Kong account terms and conditions.
Applying for Probate
The process involves applying to the Probate Registry of the High Court of HKSAR (Probate Registry), as follows:
- If there is a Will, the Registry would validate the Will and issue a legal document called the 'Grant of Probate'.
- If there is no Will, the Registry would check that the applicant(s) is legally allowed to deal with the deceased’s estate. Once the Registry is satisfied, they will issue a 'Letters of Administration'.
The Grant of Probate or the Letters of Administration, collectively known as the 'Grant of Representation', formally appoints the executor(s) or administrator(s) responsible for dealing with the estate of the deceased. The Grant of Representation proves that the Personal Representative has the authority to deal with the assets (as set out in the Schedule to the Grant) that the deceased owned.
Assistance may be obtained from the Official Administrator of the Probate Registry. You will find the contact details and relevant forms of the Probate Registry in useful contact.
To apply for the Grant of Representation, you will need to bring the following documents to the Probate Registry and you will be required to declare all assets held by the deceased:
- Original or certified copy of Death Certificate of the deceased
- Copy of Identity Card/Passport of the deceased
- Copy of Identity Card/Passport of the person applying for the Grant of Representation
- Original or certified copy of proof of relationship between the person applying for the Grant of Representation and the deceased eg marriage certificate for spouse, birth certificate for parents/children
- Original Will of the deceased, if any, together with a copy
- Any other original documents proving your entitlement to the Grant of Representation
In addition, please bring all Bank Passbooks, Statements and Time Deposit Receipts of the deceased showing the balances as at the date of death. If you have applied for the details of accounts from the Bank, then all these details must be reflected in the Schedule to the Grant of Representation. By law, we can only release those funds or assets, eg investments, held in the account of the deceased to the Personal Representative if details about the specific account, including the name of the Bank and the account number, and the funds/assets held in it are accurately stated in the Schedule2. The relevant sections of the Probate and Administration Ordinance (CAP 10) can be found in Bereavement Guide.
Therefore, if any of the deceased’s account details are not listed in the Schedule, we would have to refer you back to the Probate Registry to amend the Schedule before we can release assets in the Bank accounts to you. Please refer to Bereavement Guide for a sample of a typical Schedule.
Probate granted overseas
If the Probate is not granted in HKSAR, HSBC Hong Kong can only act on the Probate if it is 'resealed' by the High Court of HKSAR (High Court). If the overseas Probate cannot be resealed by the High Court, you will need to apply for a fresh Grant of Representation. Please refer useful contact of Probate Registry for more information.
Handling small estate
If the deceased’s entire estate in HKSAR as at the date of death does not exceed HKD50,000 in total, and the deceased does not hold any property as a trustee or as the manager of a Tso or Tong, a 'Confirmation Notice' may be applied for instead of the Grant of Representation. Applying for the Confirmation Notice is usually faster and cost less than the Grant of Representation. The Estate Beneficiaries Support Unit of the Home Affairs Department is responsible for this and their contacts can be found in useful contact.
If the value of the estate exceeds HKD50,000, you will have to visit the Probate Registry to apply for a Grant of Representation instead. Please refer to useful contact.