Events in the 24 hours leading to LKY's last will

Mr Lee Kuan Yew's home at 38 Oxley Road. A clause on the demolition of the house, drafted for previous versions of the will but subsequently deleted, came to be reinstated in the last will.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew's home at 38 Oxley Road. A clause on the demolition of the house, drafted for previous versions of the will but subsequently deleted, came to be reinstated in the last will.ST FILE PHOTO

In June 2017, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong issued an edited summary of what he told the ministerial committee in his statutory declarations about the will of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

PM Lee set out the sequence of events surrounding the late Mr Lee's seventh and final will.

He noted that the late Mr Lee (LKY) had made six wills before his last will in December 2013, and the earlier six were prepared by lawyer Kwa Kim Li (KKL).

The first will stated that all the three children - PM Lee, Mr Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) and Dr Lee Wei Ling - should get an equal share of his estate; but in the sixth will, Mr Lee gave his daughter an extra share.

In his last will, however, he reverted to his original decision to divide his estate equally among his children.

In his declarations, PM Lee questioned the role Mrs Lee Suet Fern (LSF), Mr Lee Hsien Yang's lawyer wife, played in the preparation of the last will. He noted she had sent an e-mail to Mr Lee on Dec 16, 2013, at 7.08pm, which she copied to her husband and Ms Kwa.

She appeared to attach a file to the e-mail, and said it was the original will that ensures all three children receive equal shares. She also asked Ms Kwa to engross the will.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

PM Lee then highlighted an e-mail his brother sent on Dec 16, 2013, at 7.31pm, in which Mr Lee Hsien Yang said he could not get in touch with Ms Kwa, and told Mr Lee that it was not wise to wait for her to return to change his will.

Ms Wong Lin Hoe, Mr Lee's private secretary, was copied in this e-mail. Ms Kwa was not.

PM Lee said it was unclear what efforts Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his wife had made to contact Ms Kwa. "In fact, KKL subsequently told LSF (the following afternoon, when she learnt what had happened) that she did not seem to have received LSF's e-mail," PM Lee said.

"It is also not clear why LHY thought that there was an urgency to the matter. It is, however, interesting that he suggested that his wife, clearly an interested party, and her partners would prepare the new will."

PM Lee listed subsequent e-mails to show that in the space of 41 minutes, from 7.31pm to 8.12pm, Mrs Lee saw to the preparation of the new will and got one of her lawyers to be on standby to get it executed by Mr Lee.

Mr Lee replied at 9.42pm, agreeing to Mr Lee Hsien Yang's suggestion. The next morning on Dec 17, 2013, two lawyers from Mrs Lee's law firm arrived at Mr Lee's residence to procure his signature on the last will, and were at the property for 15 minutes.

"They plainly came only to witness Mr Lee signing the last will and not to advise him," PM Lee said.

PM Lee also said neither he nor his sister was copied in this e-mail correspondence on Dec 16 or 17, 2013, on the making and signing of their father's last will.

He became aware of these troubling circumstances later, he said.

A day after PM Lee put up his statutory declarations, Mr Lee Hsien Yang said lawyers from his wife's firm did not draft the will.

"Paragraph 7 of the will was drafted at LKY's direction, and put into language by Lee Suet Fern his daughter-in-law and when he was satisfied, he asked Kim Li to insert it into his will," said Mr Lee Hsien Yang.

"On LKY's express instructions in writing, two lawyers from Stamford Law were called upon to witness his signing of the will," he added.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang did not explain how a clause on the demolition of the house at 38 Oxley Road, drafted for previous versions of the will but subsequently deleted, came to be reinstated in the last will.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2019, with the headline 'Events in the 24 hours leading to LKY's last will'. Print Edition | Subscribe