Court orders woman to return $200k to mother

Court orders woman to return $200k to mother

A woman who claimed that a sum of $200,000 was a gift to her from her 79-year-old mother was ordered to return the money after a judge ruled that this was a loan.

Ms M. Ranuga Devi, who had used the cash to invest in shares, had argued that her mother, Madam R. Parvathi, had meant to give her the money in a will.

District Judge Seah Chi-ling was not convinced, noting that the will was drawn up in 2004, four years before the money was advanced to Ms Ranuga.

The judge said the fact that Madam Parvathi wanted to leave her assets to her daughter "upon her death" did not mean she wanted to give her the $200,000 "while she was alive".

"We are dealing with (the) disposal of properties under totally different circumstances," he said in judgment grounds released on Thursday.

"Needless to say, the donor's motivations and considerations would be significantly different in both contexts," he added.

The key issue in the case was whether Madam Parvathi had presumably given the money on the strength of their parent-daughter relationship, said the judge.

But he found the strength of this presumption weak, based on the facts of the case.

Among other things, he found that Ms Ranuga was not financially dependent on her mother as she was a working adult whereas her mother had no source of income.

"Against this backdrop, it was the daughter who had a moral or equitable obligation to support the (mother) and not the other way round," said the judge.

The $200,000 came from the family flat that was sold in 2008, six years after Madam Parvathi became a widow.

Ms Ranuga and her two siblings had transferred their share in the flat to her in 2004.

Madam Parvathi had lived with Ms Ranuga for 30 years and helped look after the latter's son from the time of his birth.

Three months after she sold the flat in 2008, Madam Parvathi handed the $200,000 to her daughter, who used the money progressively to invest in shares.

There was evidence that Madam Parvathi knew and was updated on her daughter's investments.

The relationship between both of them was cordial but began to deteriorate in 2011 when Ms Ranuga became involved in charitable works at a Hindu temple.

Her mother was unhappy about the time she spent there and her association with the temple treasurer.

Ms Ranuga claimed her mother embarrassed her by complaining to the temple management committee and seeking to exclude her from temple activities.

Mother sued daughter last year for the return of the $200,000.

The judge found Madam Parvathi to be an "extremely strong-willed individual".

He ruled that it was unlikely that she would have given away nearly all the proceeds from the sale of the flat to her daughter while alive, thus making herself financially dependent on her daughter.

"It was more probable that she allowed the defendant to use the monies because of their close relationship, but at all times expected the monies to be repaid," said District Judge Seah.

Ms Ranuga, defended by lawyer K. Sureshan, is appealing against the decision. Madam Parvathi, who was represented by legal aid-assigned lawyer G. Ramakrishnan, is currently living with her older daughter, Madam M. Gomathy.

vijayan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Dec 6, 2014.
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