On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey Chancery Division, Essex County, Docket No. CP-0111-2009.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Wefing, Payne and Baxter.
Yung-Ching Wang ("Y.C. Wang" or "Y.C.") died on October 15, 2008, in Short Hills, New Jersey at the age of ninety-two. Although Y.C. Wang died in New Jersey, he was not a resident of the state and never had been. He was born in Taiwan and remained a resident of that country for his entire life. At the time of his death, he had assets that Forbes magazine had valued at between $5 billion and $7 billion, but he nonetheless died without leaving a will. These appeals involve disputes that arose among his many survivors with respect to his estate after his death. These appeals come to us with a complex factual and procedural background that must be set forth in detail to adequately analyze the parties' respective contentions.
Y.C. was married in Taiwan to Yueh Lan Wang. No children were born of this marriage, and the parties dispute whether the couple ever divorced or whether Y.C. remained legally married to her at the time of his death. Y.C. had a relationship with Chiao Wang Yang from which five children were born.*fn2 For ease of understanding, we shall use only their first names for purposes of this opinion: Margaret, Charlene, Winston, Cher, and Walter. Chiao Wang Yang, and all of her children, are citizens of the United States. Winston, although a citizen of the United States, resides in Taiwan; Yueh Lan Wang, Y.C.'s first wife, has granted him a power of attorney with respect to this action.
Y.C. also had a relationship with Pao-Chu Lee (P.C. Lee), from which four children were born.*fn3 Again, for ease of understanding, we shall use only their first names for purposes of this opinion: Susan, Sandy, Diana and Lora. In addition, through P.C. Lee, Y.C. had a stepdaughter, Vanessa Wong. P.C. Lee and all of her children are citizens of the United States, but Susan, Sandy, Diana and Lora are residents of Taiwan. According to the record before us, Susan does own property in New Jersey, and her daughter did attend school in New Jersey. P.C. Lee lives in Short Hills, and Y.C. died at her home.
Y.C. made his fortune through the development of the Formosa Plastics Group ("FPG"), a global business entity composed of more than twenty corporations. FPG has operations in Taiwan and in the United States, some of which are headquartered in New Jersey. The components of FPG include twenty-one corporations. There is no need to burden this opinion unduly by listing their separate names. The record before us does not indicate that any of these entities were incorporated in New Jersey. Y.C. resigned as chairman of FPG in 2006, and the parties dispute whether he had an ownership interest in FPG or any of its components at the time of his death. A group denominated the FPG Management Committee succeeded to Y.C.'s responsibilities for the overall management of FPG following Y.C.'s resignation as chairman. The members of this management committee included two of Y.C.'s children with P.C. Lee - Susan and Sandy - and two of his nephews - William and Wilfred, sons of his brother Yung Tsai Wong. It did not include any of his five children through Chiao Wang Yang.
There have been no formal proceedings in Taiwan to administer Y.C.'s estate, although an estate tax return was prepared and filed in Taiwan in May 2009. According to the affidavit of Joel Chen, a certified public accountant whom all of Y.C.'s heirs agreed to retain, under Taiwanese law, a fiduciary is not appointed to administer a decedent's estate. Chen identified assets owned by Y.C. at his death as having an approximate value of $1.5 billion for purposes of the estate tax return.
Y.C.'s children through Chiao Wang Yang contended that Y.C.'s holdings at the time of his death were far more extensive than that which Chen had identified and reported on the estate tax return. On May 13, 2009, Y.C.'s oldest son, Winston, filed a complaint and order to show cause on his own behalf and on behalf of Y.C.'s first wife, Yueh Lan Wang, for whom he held a power of attorney, in the Probate Part in Essex County. In this complaint, he sought to be appointed administrator of his father's estate pursuant to N.J.S.A. 3B:10-7 and leave to conduct discovery with respect to Y.C.'s assets pursuant to N.J.S.A. 3B:14-44. Within his complaint, Winston, upon information and belief, alleged that his father had created several trusts, some of which were off-shore trusts, in the period from 2001 to 2005. He estimated the value of the assets held by these trusts to be in excess of $7 billion. He also alleged the existence of an account with Credit Suisse having assets worth more than $1 billion. None of these assets were alleged to have been created in or have a locus in New Jersey. Although the complaint recited that Y.C. died at "his residence" in Short Hills, a subsequent title search showed that the property was in the name of P.C. Lee and had been since 1979, thirty years before Y.C. died.
On July 1, 2009, Winston's attorney issued four subpoenas, addressed to Formosa Plastics Corporation, U.S.A.; Nan Ya Plastics Corporation, U.S.A.; Nan Ya Plastics Corporation, America; and Inteplast Group, Ltd., L.P., ("the companies") and scheduled depositions with respect to whether Y.C. had an ownership interest in the named entity, had made any transfers of any ownership interest he may have had, and his ownership, if any, of real or personal property in the United States, "including, without limitation, deeds or other instruments of title, security instruments, stocks, bonds and bank or brokerage accounts, and without regard to whether [Y.C.] owned such real or personal property directly or indirectly, including, without limitation, in trust or by way of a trust company or holding company." These notices called for the production of the companies' stock ledgers from January 1, 2005, to date, stock certificates dated on or after January 1, 2005, the companies' corporate minute book from January 1, 2005, to date and the minutes of all shareholder and directors meetings from January 1, 2005, to date.
On July 16, 2009, the companies filed a motion to quash these subpoenas and shortly thereafter filed an affidavit of Alice Nightingale, the corporate secretary of the companies. In that affidavit, Nightingale stated that she had reviewed the respective share registers, and Y.C. was not a shareholder of any of these companies when he died, had never owned shares in Inteplast Group, Ltd., L.P., had not owned shares in Nan Ya Plastics Corporation America since 1989 and in Nan Ya Plastics ...