89-year-old widow's court battle with sons over properties and monies settled amicably

Madam Tan Lwee (above) had alleged that her son Chin Sin had blocked her access to a sum of $200,000 paid to her by her late husband.
Madam Tan Lwee (above) had alleged that her son Chin Sin had blocked her access to a sum of $200,000 paid to her by her late husband.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - After one year of suing one another and one day of trial, a legal battle between an 89-year-old widow and a son against three of her other sons ended with both sides reaching a settlement on Wednesday (Nov 1).

Lawyers for both sides, Mr Alywin Goh and Mr Thomas Toh, said the family feud over property and $200,000 was settled amicably but the terms are confidential.

After hours of negotiations, the four brothers, surrounding their mother who was in a wheelchair, were seen shaking hands outside the courtroom.

Approached for comment, Madam Tan Lwee made a gesture indicating she was hard of hearing. Co-plaintiff Lim Chin Hwa, 55, said in Mandarin: "It has been resolved, let the matter rest."

His youngest brother Chin Sin, 47 - one of the defendants, together with eldest brother Chin Keng, in his 60s, and Chin Hong, 59 - said he was satisfied with the outcome.

"Our main concern all this while was to ensure that our mother's rights are being protected," he said.

In the suit, Madam Tan alleged that Chin Sin had blocked her access to a sum of $200,000, which she said her late husband, egg farmer Lim Yoke Swee, had paid her to make amends for his infidelity and his abusive behaviour.

 

The condition set by her husband was that the money, deposited in a bank account held by herself, Chin Hwa and Chin Sin, can be withdrawn only if all three account holders agree.

In Chin Sin's defence, he contended that this was to prevent Madam Tan from being influenced into withdrawing the money in one lump sum.

He said his father had also mandated that the money cannot be withdrawn unless the three defendants see her regularly.

The illiterate housewife, who has eight children, also contended that even though she was named as the co-owner of three HDB shophouses in Teck Whye, Serangoon and Jurong, she has never received any rental income from the properties.

The defendants argued their father never intended to give Madam Tan any share in the properties and had included her name only "for convenience".

The three defendants counter-sued Madam Tan for the matrimonial flat, claiming that it belongs to their father's estate even though she is the legal owner.

According to the plaintiffs, the relationship between Madam Tan and her husband broke down in 2009, after she found out he was having an affair with their domestic helper.

She moved out of their matrimonial flat in Bukit Panjang to live with Chin Hwa. In 2010, she started divorce proceedings but dropped the case after the $200,000 offer.

Fifth son Chin Lam took her from Chin Hwa's home but allegedly chased her out after two weeks.

Third son Chin Teck then put her in an old folks' home and applied to the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents to compel his siblings to pay for her upkeep.

Madam Tan moved back with Chin Hwa in February 2011. Not long after, the order granted by the tribunal, mandating her children to pay for her upkeep, was rescinded on Chin Sin's application.

After the patriarch died in May 2014, Chin Keng and Chin Hong put an additional padlock on the gate to the matrimonial flat.

The plaintiffs said this was to keep Madam Tan out of her own home, but the defendants said this was to stop Chin Hwa from taking their father's belongings.