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Stars in limelight even after death
Sat, Jul 17, 2010
The China Post/Asia News Network

Hou Yaowen

Everything about the lives of celebrities is fair game for small talk and wagging tongues often wag even harder after stars pass on - especially if they die without making a will and leave behind a dispute over who gets what.

Hou Yaowen, a well-known cross talk comedian in China, died of a sudden heart attack three years ago at the age of 59. The artist had not prepared a will and so there was uncertainty about what would happen to his many artifacts, antiques and precious watches.

It was reported that Hou was worth about 80 million yuan (S$16.25 million).

For the following three years a battle for his estate has ensued involving his two daughters and his brother, Hou Yaohua, who is also a well known comedian.

Hou's oldest daughter, Hou Zan, said she has not seen her father's collections of rare and expensive items since his death and she filed a lawsuit against her uncle, claiming he had taken her father's possessions.

The family is split on the issue and has not reached a compromise but is waiting for a decision from the court despite countless negotiations and judicial decisions.

The dispute over a celebrity's legacy is far from a rarity.

Ji Xianlin

As a world-renown scholar, Ji Xianlin died last year at the age of 98 and left behind a whole batch of academic books as well as numerous artifacts, drawings and antiques collected throughout many decades.

His possessions are now being cared for by Peking University, where Ji worked for about 50 years.

Ji's only son, Ji Cheng, is negotiating with the university about the future of his father's possessions.

Ji Cheng said his father actually started trying to get his possessions out of Peking University before he passed away, without success.

"Actually, my father requested they return his collections while he was alive but a year has now passed since my father passed away," Ji Cheng was quoted as saying on qlwb.com.cn.

Ji Cheng also publicly chided his father's assistant, Li Yuchen, for allegedly stealing some items while his father was in hospital. It was reported that, as early as 2007, Ji's possessions started to surface for sale on the gray market.

Anita Mui

Hong Kong pop singer and actress

Anita Mui, known as China's Madonna, died of cervical cancer in 2003, leaving approximately HK$35 million  (S$ 6.20 million)- a fortune that has grown to around 100 million since.

Mui drew up a will before her death giving her property in Hong Kong and London to her friend Liu Peiji. She set aside HK$1.7 million for the education of her four nephews and nieces and said her mother, Qin Meijin, should receive HK$70,000 in living expense each month until she passes away. The rest of her estate was to go to the New Horizon Buddhist Association Ltd.

Mei's mother, Qin Meijin, sued the will's trustees, HSBC International Trustee Ltd., as well as New Horizon Buddhist Association Ltd. and Liu Peiji twice - in 2004 and 2008 - claiming to be the rightful heir to all of Mui's fortune.

After the first lawsuit in 2004, Qin succeeded in raising her monthly living expense from HK$70,000 to HK$120,000. Her appeal in 2008 requested the court to reexamine the validity of Mei's last will. She claimed the will was written when Mei had been under abnormal mental stress, so was invalid.

The Hong Kong High Court ruled in June 2008 that the will was valid.

- China Daily/Asia News Network

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