Before buying a house, married couples should discuss how they will split the property in case they break up.
The Court of Appeal said this in its ruling last week, regarding an ownership tussle over a $20 million good class bungalow (GCB) between Chan Yeun Lan and her husband, See Fong Mun.
The house was purchased in 1983 by See, using his own funds and overdrafts, plus $290,000 from Chan’s savings. Three days before the transaction, she inked a power of attorney which allows her husband and their eldest son to manage the 20,000 sq ft property.
However, she rescinded the document in April 2011. Consequently, her husband filed a case in the High Court to invalidate her action, and he won the right to keep the bungalow in May 2013.
In the appeal, his lawyers Lim Seng Siew and Lai Swee Fung argued the house in Chancery Lane belonged entirely to their client because Chan’s contribution was intended to be a loan that will be repaid by See.
Chan’s Senior Counsel Engelin Teh and attorney Simon Jones asserted that certain documents prove that See had agreed to give her the ownership of the property in return for her contributions.
However, the Court of Appeal, comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal V.K. Rajah and Andrew Phang, decreed that 15.8 percent of the property should go to Chan due to her financial contribution. This is because both parties’ common intention in relation to the house is uncertain due to incomplete evidence and the wife’s hazy memory.
Chan died earlier this year, after her appeal was heard against a High Court decision.