by Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss
I have gotten a copy of the Disciplinary Tribunal (DT) Report which I am in the midst of reading.
Many things puzzle me. For instance, the DT said that Mrs Lee Suet Fern (LSF) “misled” late Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) into thinking that the Last Will was the 1st Will, when in fact the Last Will was not identical to the 1st Will.
However, it turns out that the Last Will differed from the 1st Will in only two ways:
Firstly, the 1st Will had a Gift Over Clause i.e. a clause which provided for the scenario when any of LKY’s children predeceased him; but the Last Will did not contain any Gift Over Clause. In fact, all of LKY’s previous Wills consistently had the Gift Over Clause (the 3rd Will had a different form of the clause) — but the Last Will curiously omits the Gift Over Clause altogether.
Secondly, the 1st Will had a proviso allowing Dr Lee Weiling (LWL) to live in 38 Oxley “for so long as she desires free of rent” and that Lee Hsien Loong (LHL) “shall pay for the maintenance and upkeep of 38 Oxley Road when (LWL) is in occupation thereof”. The Last Will also had the proviso allowing LWL to live in 38 Oxley “for so long as she desires” — but the words “free of rent” and that LHL “shall pay for the maintenance and upkeep of 38 Oxley Road when (LWL) is in occupation thereof” were curiously omitted from the Last Will.
I gather from the DT Report that other than the aforesaid two departures, the Last Will was otherwise the same as, if not identical to, the 1st Will.
The DT Report doesn’t tell what the Gift Over Clause provided. Typically, gift over clauses would provide that in the event that any beneficiary predeceased the testator, then the share of the estate which the predeceased beneficiary would have been given had he/she survived, would be given to his/her (the predeceased beneficiary’s) children; and if the predeceased beneficiary had no children then the share will be given to the other surviving beneficiaries.
If that was the nature of the Gift Over Clause in LKY’s earlier Wills, then such a clause would benefit Lee Hsien Yang since he has three children of his own, so it would not be in LHY’s interest that it be deleted from the Last Will.
As for the omission from the Last Will of the words “free of rent” and that LHL “shall pay for the maintenance and upkeep of 38 Oxley Road when (LWL) is in occupation thereof”, leaving those words out looks to be to LHL’s benefit and to LWL’s detriment.
I cannot see those two differences as pointing to any sinister motives on the part of LSF. I think it would be ridiculous to say that LSF deliberately revised the 1st Will to make those two changes. I would rule that out completely.
I suspect what really happened, was that an earlier or close-to-final version of the 1st Will was mistook by LHY/LSF to be the final version of the 1st Will, because it looked very similar. I suspect that just before the 1st Will was signed, the Gift Over Clause was added and the provision allowing LWL to live in 38 Oxley was expanded with additional words.
In view of what the two differences between the 1st Will and the Last Will actually amounted to, I think it is over-enthusiastic for anyone to invoke the spectre of dishonesty to say that LSF “misled” or “misrepresented” to LKY that the draft Last Will was the same as the 1st Will.
I think that LSF honestly assumed that the draft Last Will was the final version of the 1st Will because it looked very much like the 1st Will.
I have further thoughts, but will save it for another time.
Mrs Chong-Aruldoss is a practicing lawyer with 30 years of experience who specialise in Family Law. She is also a politician who has previously contested in Mountbatten SMC in General Election 2011 and 2015.