Son of wealthy widow appeals in case of lawyer who was not referred for investigations

SINGAPORE - The son of an elderly widow with a $200 million fortune is appealing against a court decision not to order an investigation into a lawyer's conduct in transactions involving his mother.

The High Court had in January ordered the Law Society to reconsider its decision not to refer the lawyer for investigation, instead of granting an outright order for the lawyer to be investigated.

The son is also appealing against the court's decision not to order the Law Society to pay him $38,000 in legal costs and disbursements.

On Thursday (Mar 19), the High Court judge gave his written reasons for his decision on costs, which are generally paid by the losing party to the winning party.

Justice Aedit Abdullah said it was not appropriate to award costs in this case, considering that he had ruled against the son on a number of points and that the order he gave was narrower than what the man had sought.

The judge also accepted that the Law Society was performing a public regulatory function.

None of the individuals involved in the case were named in the judgments.

The widow is from a prominent Singapore family and had inherited close to $200 million by 2010.

Her husband died in 2007, leaving the bulk of his wealth to their two adult daughters and son, who was the middle child.


The trio had a bitter relationship, prompting two sisters of their mother to apply to the court to declare that the widow lacked the mental capacity to manage her assets.

In 2015, the Court of Appeal found that the widow's younger daughter and son-in-law had "exercised undue influence" over the woman, who was then 80 years old. Professional deputies were also appointed to act for the widow.

In 2018, the widow's son lodged a complaint to the Law Society, alleging misconduct on the part of the lawyer who had advised his mother on establishing a trust in 2010.

The lawyer had also spoken on her behalf in meetings with two banks, in attempts to transfer her assets to a third bank where the trust was set up.

As the alleged misconduct took place more than six years before the complaint was made, the Law Society's council was required by law to obtain the court's permission to refer the lawyer for investigation.

The council decided against seeking permission and the woman's son sought a judicial review by the High Court to challenge this.

In a judgment in January, Justice Aedit quashed the council's decision, saying that it focused on irrelevant factors and failed to consider relevant factors.

However, he said the proper course should only be to compel the council to properly consider the relevant factors.