3. If the deceased made no Will, how can the relevant estate be distributed?

The order of priority under the law relating to the entitlement of the deceased's estate is similar to the order relating to the eligibility to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration (please refer to the relevant question and answer).

In reality, it often happens that 2 or more parties who are entitled to the assets survive and may claim the deceased's estate together. The followings are some of the usual scenarios. For details, please refer to section 4 of the Intestates' Estates Ordinance.

(A) The deceased only leaves a spouse

If the deceased leaves a spouse, but leaves no issue, parent, brother or sister of the whole blood (the same parents), or issue of a brother or sister of the whole blood, then the surviving husband or wife is absolutely entitled to the residuary estate (i.e. the whole sum after deduction of the deceased's debts, taxes, funeral, legal and administration expenses from the estate).

(Note: "Issue" has a special meaning in the succession law which is different from the daily usage. It means any descendants of a person.)

(B) The deceased leaves a spouse and issue

If the deceased leaves a spouse and issue, whether or not survived by his/her parents or siblings, the surviving spouse could take the following first:

  1. all of the deceased's personal chattels;
  2. a sum of $500,000 from the residuary estate.

After the aforesaid $500,000 is paid out, if there is any remaining sum, it would be divided in half. One half will be distributed to the surviving spouse and the other half will be divided equally amongst the child/children of the deceased.

(C) The deceased leaves a spouse, parents and siblings, but no issue

If the deceased has issue, the deceased's parents, brothers and sisters cannot obtain anything even if the deceased's spouse has predeceased (die before) the deceased.

Only if the deceased has no issue can the parents and siblings have a share in the deceased's estate, even if his/her spouse survives . The surviving spouse could take the following first:

  1. all of the deceased's personal chattels;
  2. a sum of $1,000,000 from the residuary estate.

After the aforesaid $1,000,000 is paid out, if there is any remaining sum, it would be divided in half. One half will be distributed to the surviving spouse and the other half will be distributed to the surviving parent(s).

On the other hand, if one or both parents survive, the siblings cannot obtain a share of the deceased’s estate. They will only be entitled to part of the estate (after deduction of the spouse's entitlement) if the deceased leaves no issue and no parents.

(D) The share of "illegitimate children"

An illegitimate child means a child whose natural parents are not married in a manner that the laws of Hong Kong recognize. For details of legal marriage, please go to the topic of "Matrimonial Matters".

Before the 19th June 1993, illegitimate children were not entitled to succeed to their deceased father's estate if their father died intestate (without a Will). Illegitimate children could succeed to their mother’s estate on her intestacy, but only when there were no surviving legitimate children. If the deceased parent had a Will and he gave "his children" a gift or a sum of money to share, the illegitimate children were not entitled to share in the gift.

However, this position has been changed by the Parent and Child Ordinance. Illegitimate children can now enjoy the same succession rights as legitimate ones if their parents die after 19 th June 1993 .

One point to note is that for those adopted children (i.e. they have been adopted by persons through a legal adoption process), they have the same status as the natural children. In other words, they shall be treated as the children of the adopter but not the children of any other persons.

For more information regarding the distribution of estate, please go to the "case illustration".

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