Family row over flat heads to court

SINGAPORE - A family dispute over a five-room Housing Board flat will finally go before the High Court after a day of talks between a mother and her children failed to reach an out-of-court settlement on Thursday.

Madam Eileen Chia Yoke Mui, 91, will ask the court to declare invalid the transfer of part of the property to Madam Yvonne Goh Mei Ling, 62, and Madam Yvette Goh Meich'ang, 52.

Madam Chia will argue that she was coerced and misled into making her daughters joint owners of the flat in 2010.

The two sisters will contend that it was a gift made willingly and knowingly by their parents.

Madam Chia lived in the flat with her husband, Mr Dennis Goh Chin Chye, until he died on March 5 at age 94. He was a pioneer and prime mover of the scouts movement here and a respected Anglo-Chinese School physical education teacher.

The dispute was supposed to go before Justice Quentin Loh earlier this week and he had urged the family to settle it outside of court. But mediation before retired High Court judge Kan Ting Chiu failed to resolve the matter on Thursday. The hearing will finally start today before Justice Loh.

Documents filed with the High Court state that the two sisters live in England. During a visit to Singapore in the last quarter of 2009, they stayed at their parents' flat, which was bought in 1992.

In December 2009, the parents applied to make the sisters joint tenants as well in a transfer document. Under joint tenancy, the property can be sold only if all sides agree. And when an owner dies, the other owners inherit his share.

The transfer took effect on April 13, 2010.

Madam Chia, according to the court documents, claims she and her late husband were repeatedly harassed and badgered into making the change.

She accuses Yvonne of taking advantage of their old age and putting them under intense stress to share the flat. She also claims she was misled into thinking that even as joint tenants, her daughters will have no right to stop her from selling the flat.

In their defence, the sisters claim it was their father's idea to add their names to the tenancy as a gift and their mother had agreed to it.

They said their parents had wanted to ensure that should anything happen to them, the sisters would be entitled to shares in the property.

The old couple had also intended for the flat to be a "base" for Yvonne and Yvette to stay in whenever they return to Singapore, the sisters added.

pohian@sph.com.sg


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