Dad fails in bid to retrieve share of son's condo

The High Court has rejected a bid by a 76-year-old newspaper vendor who wanted to retrieve a half-share of a $1.25 million condominium unit he gave his son.
The High Court has rejected a bid by a 76-year-old newspaper vendor who wanted to retrieve a half-share of a $1.25 million condominium unit he gave his son.PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS

High Court dismisses 76-year-old's claim that he gave $1.25m unit to son to hold on trust

The High Court has rejected a bid by a 76-year-old newspaper vendor who wanted to retrieve a half-share of a $1.25 million condominium unit he gave his son, unconvinced by his claim he had merely given it to the son to hold on trust.

Mr Chin Kim Yon paid $700,000 for the Hillview Avenue apartment in 2000, which he registered in the names of his son Kheng Hai and daughter Yun Qin, then aged 33 and 35 respectively, giving each a half-share.

Both were his children by his second wife, Madam Lim Ya, whom he married according to customary Chinese rites in 1963.

After his daughter Yun Qin died in 2014, her half-share of the unit was transferred to Mr Chin.

He then sought a court declaration that he was the beneficial owner of the unit and wanted the return of Kheng Hai's share to "regularise" ownership.

The Singapore permanent resident, who has five other children from his first marriage in 1958, worked as a street hawker before contracting with Singapore Press Holdings to distribute newspapers in Jurong, a business that expanded to Pasir Panjang.

Mr Chin, represented by lawyer Winston Quek , said he never meant to give the unit to his children, who were just holding it on trust for him.

He said he had "no choice" but to buy the unit after his two children failed to get a bank loan for it and Yun Qin had asked for his help.

Kheng Hai's lawyer, Mr Goh Peck San, pointed to evidence which showed the apartment was given to the children, to rebut the presumption that it was held on trust for the father.

Under the "presumption of advancement", the court recognises the special relationship that exists - such as that between father and children or husband and wife - which would back the claim it was an irrevocable gift made at the time.

In judgment grounds released last week, Senior Judge Tan Lee Meng found that Mr Chin had failed to rebut this presumption, pointing to his intention in 2000 when he bought the unit and the state of his relationship with the two children at the time.

The judge noted that the relationship between father and son had soured in 2013 before Madam Lim Ya died in March that year.

This was unlike in 2000, when evidence showed that he "cared for them", and bought the unit out of "fatherly concern".

Among other things, the judge noted that Mr Chin had funded Kheng Hai's studies in Canada and the United States, arranged for him to return here for treatment after a skiing accident in 1997 and even sponsored Kheng Hai's mother and sister to travel to the US for his graduation.

Based on the state of the relationship between the father and children, the judge found there was "ample room for the operation of the presumption of advancement".

The judge added that Mr Chin's evidence "left much to be desired".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2016, with the headline 'Dad fails in bid to retrieve share of son's condo'. Print Edition | Subscribe