The youngest child of late Chinese businessman Lian Seng Peng has lost a bid to have a secret handwritten will by his father recognised, after a High Court judge found the surrounding circumstances to be “suspicious”, reported The Straits Times.
The elder Lian died in December 2012 at the age of 93, leaving behind $7 million worth of assets, the bulk of which is a home in Siglap.
Under a will prepared by a lawyer on 18 December 2010 and witnessed by the family doctor, he left the house to his wife while his other assets were to be shared equally by his six grandchildren.
Last year, Mr Lian’s only son Lian Kok Hong sued his sister Bee Leng and niece Hui Ying, executors of his father’s 2010 will.
Kok Hong, who runs a chemical company, had previously stopped both women from distributing his father’s assets according to the 2010 will, claiming that he was holding on to the final will.
The will was dated 10 June 2012, but amended to 10 August 2012 and counter-signed by Mr Lian.
Kok Hong testified that he visited his father in August of that year along with five of his employees. He revealed that they had with them the draft will that was given to him by his father in June. They also took photos of him signing the will in the presence of two witnesses – Zhu Jintian and Goh Tay Sin.
Under the August 2010 will, Mr Lian left each of his six grandchildren $100,000 and instructed that the home in Jedburgh Gardens be sold. The proceeds of the sale were allegedly to be used to establish a charity fund – $1 million would be donated to a school in Mr Lian’s hometown in China and S$1 million will be donated to Thong Chai Medical Institution.
In her decision, Justice Judith Prakash rejected Kok Hong’s claim and ruled in favour of the 2010 will.
She noted that the circumstances surrounding the 2012 handwritten will were “sufficiently suspicious” and that Kok Hong failed to prove that his father consented and knew the terms of the will.
“To me, the plaintiff’s account has all the hallmarks of a deliberate attempt to set up the execution of the August 2012 will in such a way that its validity could not be questioned later,” she said.
Justice Prakash noted that Mr Lian had unequivocally stated in an April 2012 video that even if he wrote a will, he would not show it to Kok Hong. She found no explanation for Mr Lian’s change of heart when he allegedly gave the draft will to Kok Hong two months later.