Michelle is a consultant in the private client and tax team.
She advises on a broad range of wealth planning matters including setting up discretionary trusts, from initial advice on trust structures to transfer of assets to distribution; change of trustees, preparing letter of wishes, trust restructuring and termination of trusts. She also advises on corporate structures and compliance issues.
Michelle also has particular expertise in charity law, including advising on the setting up of charitable organisations and governance matters for universities, schools, banks, corporations and individuals. She has also advised on the charitable funding for research development. In addition, she also advises on negotiating and preparing donation agreements, the use of funds for charitable purposes, making and receiving donations, charities operations and dealing with the Inland Revenue Department and Companies Registry as well as various private banks on issues relating to setting up charities and compliance. She sits on multiple hospitals, schools and charity boards and brings her wealth of experience to her clients. She is a co-chair of the STEP's Philanthropy Advisors Special Interest Group Steering Committee and a trainer on philanthropy courses globally.
Ranked as the top 10 trust lawyer.
From both its London and Hong Kong offices Withers has been key in providing SharedImpact with the legal structures for our international network of charities to enable tax-efficient global philanthropy. Withers stands out with its consistent and timely advice, and is the authoritative voice in this sector.
Withers – and in particular Michelle Chow "The Charity Doctor" – have proved an integral part of assisting us with the set up of The Loke Foundation. Michelle popped onto our radar just at the right time and guided us through the process of setting up the foundation, streamlining what can be a very complicated process in a timely and efficient manner. Her vast experience and expert knowledge has been invaluable to us and she continues to advise us to this day.
Me in a minute
I count myself extremely fortunate to be part of Withers' global philanthropy and charity team.
Hong Kong is a buzzing city, but its wealth gap is one of the biggest in the world. Working as both a wealth planner and a charity lawyer in Hong Kong, I am honored to be able to help clients who build their own wealth through successful businesses or inheritance. No matter how they make their money, I enjoy advising them to plan carefully to achieve their goals - i.e. to pass their wealth down to their families and charities.
I always advise my clients to be fair in order to avoid potential conflicts in the family. In the old days, only Chinese males could inherit the family's wealth. Some women may be grateful to me for successfully persuading their grandpa to give not only to boys, but girls too! As a wealth planner, one can become the family's trusted advisor. A client who comes to me to plan his philanthropic endeavors may end up establishing a discretionary trust, receiving US tax advice and getting his daughter's pre-nuptial agreement done! I treasure the relationship and friendship that can develop over the years, and learn so much from advising my elderly clients in particular. I was so touched when a client tracked me down 15 years after I set up his father's trust, to re-organise the trust as the family expands.
Another area I am passionate about is philanthropy. I count myself extremely fortunate to be part of Withers' global philanthropy and charity team. Colleagues from different offices have worked with me on my clients' global charity projects. Some parents may say to their children "If you are up to no good, I will donate all your inheritance!" Fortunately, my clients don't use this as a threat; they are real philanthropists that get involved in the education sector, medical and health care, and even getting an old building listed and setting up a museum. My charity clients are extremely diverse - including universities and colleges, private individuals, family offices, bank trustees, hospitals, churches and museums.
I come from a family of many lawyers. My father was a lawyer and, even though he is retired, is still deeply involved in schools and hospitals. I am a governor of two public hospitals, and an elderly home, run my harp charity that I co-founded 10 years ago and enjoy doing harp outreach to schools, hospitals and elderly homes to bring music to people and provide harp lessons to those who cannot otherwise afford them. Being involved in charities helps me understand my clients' philanthropic goals and challenges, so we can talk in the same language.