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Wills of the Rich and Famous - Or Not!

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When Wang Yung-Ching passed away in 2008 at age 91 in his New Jersey home, he was one of the world's 200 richest people. Born into poverty as the son of tea farmers in Taiwan, he started the Formosa Plastics Group, an international plastics manufacturing conglomerate headquartered in Livingston. Wang married - but fathered nine children, all born to women other than his wife. Although he was called the "god of management" by Taiwan's president at his state funeral, Wang expertly managed everything but executing a will.

To this day, those offspring are still fighting over his billions. The battle was so complex that a lawyer for one of his children displayed in court an elaborate "family tree" and a diagram of Wang's holdings in several countries. In an independent study, Wang's assets were valued at around $15 billion in Bermuda trusts.

Although the eldest son, Winston Wong, claimed that the case should be decided in New Jersey because Wang's home and fortune were built here, the New Jersey case was ultimately dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Wong went on to file suit in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Bermuda for assets held in those countries. As a result, Hong Kong's High Court has appointed Winston Wong as the administrator of his father's estate. As administrator, Wong then filed suit to recover $4 billion in assets that were supposedly being held by two Hong Kong companies, Hua Yang Investment (HK) Ltd. and Winson International Investments Ltd. The case in Taiwan have been settled, but those in Hong Kong and Bermuda are ongoing.

Although few of us can claim to be billionaires, or will experience a situation as grand or unique as Wang Yung-Ching's, not having a will can create problems for any estate, from who will manage it to the inheritance status of children born in and out of wedlock, to lengthy and expensive court challenges. More important, making a will helps your loved ones sort everything out the way you intended. Kieu-Nhi Le, Rutgers School of Law Newark candidate for a JD degree in May 2016. She is the Managing Business Editor of the Rutgers Computer and Technology Law Journal collaborated with me on this blog.


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