Lee Wei Ling's extra share of father's estate removed in final will

The basement dining room of Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38 Oxley Road.
The basement dining room of Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38 Oxley Road.PHOTO: ST FILE
Dr Lee Wei Ling at the preview of We Built A Nation, an exhibition at The National Museum of Singapore.
Dr Lee Wei Ling at the preview of We Built A Nation, an exhibition at The National Museum of Singapore.PHOTO: ST FILE

Initially, Dr Lee Wei Ling was promised an extra share of the estate of her father Lee Kuan Yew, but it was taken away in Mr Lee's final will, a document that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said was prepared in great haste by lawyers of his sister-in-law's legal firm.

That change aroused "grave suspicions" in Dr Lee that her younger brother Lee Hsien Yang and his wife, lawyer Lee Suet Fern, "did her in" by removing her extra share.

These events were described in a statement PM Lee released last night on a statutory declaration he had made to a ministerial committee considering options for the late Mr Lee's home at 38, Oxley Road.

PM Lee noted that his father gave all three children an equal share in his first will of Aug 20, 2011.

There were seven wills altogether, and in the sixth will of Nov 2, 2012, Dr Lee was given an extra share. PM Lee said this became "the subject of discussion" between his father and his brother in late 2013.

On Dec 16, 2013, Mrs Lee Suet Fern e-mailed his father, his brother and Ms Kwa Kim Li - his cousin and a lawyer at Lee & Lee who had prepared the six earlier wills of Mr Lee - an original agreed will that gave all three children equal shares. PM Lee said this showed discussions between his brother and father had led to Mr Lee reverting to his earlier decision. This would deprive Dr Lee of her additional share as stated in the sixth will.

But a "mere 23 minutes" after Mrs Lee's e-mail, PM Lee said, his brother wrote to his father saying he believed Ms Kwa was away and that he did not think it was "wise to wait till she is back" to sign the seventh will. PM Lee said his brother wrote that a lawyer in his wife's firm could bring the new will for Mr Lee to sign. His father agreed.

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

That same night, Mrs Lee wrote to Mr Lee's private secretary to make arrangements for the new will to be signed.

"So, in the space of 41 minutes, (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," said PM Lee.

The following morning, two lawyers from her firm went to 38, Oxley Road to witness the signing of the seventh and last will.

PM Lee said neither he nor his sister was on the e-mail list of correspondences with his father, adding that he became aware of "these troubling circumstances" later.

He said Dr Lee had also begun to be suspicious of the change.

In July 2014, Dr Lee told PM Lee's wife Ho Ching about her concerns in a series of e-mails, said PM Lee.

"Crucially, she said, 'If that is what Pa wants, so be it. But I don't trust Fern, and she has great influence on Yang', " he added.

He said Dr Lee also wrote that she "wondered whether Yang pulled a fast one", and that she had a "sense that Yang played me out".

Dr Lee also wrote to Ms Ho Ching: "The money I don't get does not upset me. It is that Yang and Fern would do this to me."

PM Lee said: "In other words, (Dr Lee) herself believed that (Hsien Yang and his wife) did her in by either suggesting or facilitating the removal of her extra share, which happened in the last will prepared in great haste by (Mrs Lee) and her law firm."

He added that in letters to his lawyers after disputes arose between him and his siblings, "Dr Lee admitted she had been suspicious whether the change in shares was really (their father's) decision or one that was instigated by (Hsien Yang and his wife), but claimed she no longer held this suspicion".

"But she did not explain how or why her suspicions had now come to be so conveniently dispelled," PM Lee added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2017, with the headline 'Lee Wei Ling's extra share of father's estate removed in final will'. Print Edition | Subscribe