The death of a businessman leads to a lawsuit between his wife and Chinese mother over a $ 30 million estate
A $ 30 million estate left by a businessman who died without a will has sparked a bitter feud between his Chinese mother and his Adelaide family, which has reached South Australia’s highest court.
Under South Australian inheritance laws, their spouse and children get everything if a person dies, leaving more than $ 100,000.
When businessman Hongtao Liu died in November 2018, he left behind a fortune of $ 30 million, a wife and two children in Adelaide, and a 76-year-old mother in China who pledged to support her for the rest of her life.
Pictured: One of Hongtao Liu’s luxury properties on Harrow Rd, St Peters, Adelaide
Mr. Liu, former director of Australian Group Investments, had an extensive network of business interests including luxury properties in Adelaide, a real estate company, a catering company, a financial management company and the talent agencies Super Star Australia and Young Stars.
Mr. Liu owned two luxury properties on either side of St Peter’s Billabong, a wetland nature reserve in the heart of Adelaide.
One of them, a $ 3.5 million house on Harrow Rd, St Peters, was designed by award-winning architect Max Pritchard and featured an on-site pool bar and 17-foot solar-heated pool.
Mr. Liu’s mother, Junying Yan, is now suing her daughter-in-law, Xiangting Kong, and two grandchildren Daniel, 14, and Shirley, 12, for part of the $ 30 million assets. Pictured: The 17-meter pool at Hongtao Liu’s luxury Adelaide home
While most of Mr. Liu’s assets were in Australia, a significant portion were in China, including an electricity company that lent money to related entities.
Liu’s wife Xiangting Kong, the mother of his two children Daniel, 14, and Shirley, 12, took control of her late husbands’ assets as administrators in February 2019, according to a preliminary ruling by the South Australia Supreme Court.
Six months later, Mr. Liu, Junying Yan, for checking.
Ms. Yan says she is an impoverished former factory worker with limited education.
Her son had supported her by paying her $ 30,000 a year on which she lived, which he later increased to $ 40,000 a year.
Chinese courts have different insider laws than Australia, and under the Chinese system, Ms. Yan says she is entitled to some of her son’s assets.
Junying Yan is now suing her own daughter-in-law, Xiangting Kong, and her grandchildren for control of his multinational portfolio worth millions.
In Australia, the case has reached the South Australian Supreme Court, but Yan has also filed four separate proceedings in Chinese courts.
The Supreme Court ruling states that there appears to be “agreement” that Junying Yan is entitled to $ 1.25 million in her son’s foreign assets in the form of “real estate.”
Ms. Yan said she would not be allowed to dispute her son’s assets in South Australia if the Chinese courts ruled in her favor, and the outcome would be announced there early next year.
Xiangting Kong told the court that if they delayed the case to wait for her mother-in-law’s lawsuit in China to be resolved, it would freeze her late husband’s assets (like his luxury home in Adelaide, pictured) and leave the family unable to continue their lifestyle
Ms. Yan asked for the Australian proceedings to be postponed until the outcome of the Chinese case was known.
Ms. Kong argued that if the proceedings were delayed, it would freeze her late husband’s assets and cripple her family emotionally and financially.
Judge Tim Stanley said there was no guarantee that the Chinese court would resolve the case in a timely manner, and rejected Ms. Yan’s request.
Pictured: The Supreme Court of South Australia in Adelaide, where the case will be heard after Ms. Yan pays $ 350,000 bail for potential court costs
“The plaintiff’s position is not that the outcome of the Chinese proceedings will resolve the issues in the proceedings before this court,” he said.
If she is not satisfied with the outcome of the Chinese procedure, Plaintiff wishes to retain her right to litigate here.
“The plaintiff’s position is tantamount to eating her cake and eating it.”
Ms. Kong has asked her mother-in-law to pay a bond in Australia against any future court costs, which Ms. Yan found prohibitively expensive.
Justice Stanley has granted Ms. Kong’s request, adding that the charges should include enforcement not only in China but elsewhere.
“While high, there is no weight of evidence to doubt the reasonable cost of the action is $ 350,000,” he said in the preliminary ruling.
Ms. Yan has been ordered to pay $ 350,000 to cover any future litigation costs.