Family tussle over late patriarch's two wills

Family tussle over late patriarch's two wills
The house, which is embroiled in a tussle between family members after the owner has passed away, at 30 Jedburgh Gardens in Siglap on 20 January 2015.

SINGAPORE - But in 2012, four months before he died, he made a will that left $100,000 to each grandchild, called for the house to be sold and for the proceeds to be used to set up a charity fund.

The two wills are now put before the High Court to determine which is the valid one that represents the true wishes of Mr Lian Seng Peng, who died in December 2012 at age 93. On one side is second daughter Lian Bee Leng and granddaughter Wee Hui Ying, who were appointed by the patriarch as trustees and executors of his 2010 will.

On the other side is youngest son Lian Kok Hong, who filed a caveat in 2013 to stop his sister and niece from distributing the assets based on the 2010 will.

Mr Lian, represented by lawyer G. Raman, sued them last year, asking the court to declare that the handwritten will made in August 2012 is valid.

His sister and niece, represented by Mr Leo Cheng Suan, contest his claim, pointing to "suspicious" circumstances surrounding the 2012 will.

The senior Mr Lian married Madam Soh Seat Hwa in 1942 and they had three children. Madam Soh, who turns 90 this year, still lives in the family home in Jedburgh Gardens in Siglap.

In a will prepared by a lawyer and witnessed by the family doctor in December 2010, the patriarch left the house to his wife and the rest of his estate to his six grandchildren in equal shares. The grandchildren are believed to be between 16 and 46 years old.

According to court papers, after his death, Madam Lian asked her brother if he had any will made by their father. Mr Lian produced only a July 2010 will that had been cancelled. But Mr Lian later produced a will handwritten in Chinese in which the patriarch revoked the December 2010 will.

Apart from providing for the grandchildren, he wanted the house sold and the proceeds to set up a charity fund in his and his wife's names.

He wanted $1 million to be donated to Thong Chai Medical Institution and 5 million yuan (S$1 million) to be donated to a school in his hometown in China.

The defendants contend that the patriarch was ill and under pressure when he signed the 2012 will. They noted that it was witnessed by two employees of Mr Lian's, who made sure photos were taken of his father signing the will, which he then hid from the family. Mr Lian is expected to take the stand today.

This article was first published on January 21, 2015.
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