SINGAPORE - It was 1937 when Peranakan widow Wan Chin Neo, a mother of three, bought a small bungalow in Katong for the then princely sum of $1,900.
She decided the property should remain in the family for generations to come, and created a trust that stated it was for her descendants to occupy in perpetuity.
By the end of 1939, Madam Wan and her two adult daughters were dead. Only her son was alive.
It was more than 70 years before the house in Carpmael Road near Joo Chiat came to the attention of the High Court, when some of Madam Wan's descendants wanted to check if the trust was valid.
The court ruled that her intention to keep the house in the family forever was not valid and ordered the property sold, and its proceeds distributed among her surviving descendants.
The run-down house was sold earlier this year for almost $4 million. Now a search is under way to track down Madam Wan's surviving descendants, who are entitled to a share of the proceeds.
And that is proving quite a challenge for Mr Lee Chiwi, chief executive of Rockwills Trustee, and lawyer Goh Kok Yeow of law firm De Souza Lim & Goh, who is helping to trace the beneficiaries and deal with the legal applications.
Madam Wan and her three children are all long dead, and none of them left a will. Under inheritance rules, this means the money should be shared by their descendants.
But, first, they must be traced. So far, 15 people have stepped forward to stake their claim. All of them are descendants of Madam Wan's only son, Mr Koh Hoon Teck.