The High Court has declined to declare a Thai widow presumed dead, sinking a relative's bid to claim her late Singaporean husband's CPF money.
Mr Ho Kum Yuen died in 2012 without making a will, leaving $150,000 in his CPF account to be claimed by next of kin.
He had married Kornrat Sriponnok in 2001 though they never lived together, and they split up the following year.
He never managed to contact her after that.
Although Ms Kornrat was entitled to his CPF money as his widow, Mr Ho's brother, Mr Ho Kum Kok, claimed that she had not been heard from in seven years and applied for a court declaration that she is presumed dead.
This would mean the money could be shared among Mr Ho Kum Kok and his siblings.
He gave evidence claiming that his brother wanted to divorce Ms Kornrat in 2004, but could not afford to.
He produced a police report lodged by his brother at the time which declared that hehad met her only once or twice a year after their marriage to renew her visa.
In the report, Mr Ho Kum Yuen said that when he last saw his wife in May 2002, she wanted to borrow money from him but he had been unable to help her. The couple did not quarrel.
He made five trips to Thailand in 2008 to trace Ms Kornrat but to no avail. His last trip, in 2011, was also fruitless.
Mr Ho Kum Kok's lawyer Jason Dendroff placed a notice in a Bangkok newspaper seeking information about her whereabouts, in the wake of the High Court application and in a bid to notify her.
However, Justice Choo Han Teck, in judgment grounds released on Tuesday, ruled that it has not been proven that Ms Kornrat has not been heard from for seven years by those who knew her well.
"The fact that Kornrat cannot be contacted is not proof that she is dead," he said.
"She is a Thai national and may still be alive somewhere in Thailand.
"The applicant has only proven that Kornrat cannot be found in Singapore, but there is insufficient evidence to prove that she is dead."
The judge added that the applicant has to show that all due and sufficient steps and inquiries have been made to establish whether Ms Kornrat is alive.