The late Lee Kuan Yew had “independently drafted and executed” a codicil referencing his final will as evidenced in an entire correspondence relating to the signing of his final will, said his daughter Dr Lee Wei Ling on Mon (2 Mar).
According to Dr Lee, Mr LKY had by his own volition and in his own awareness drafted and carried out an amendment which referenced the final will after signing it in 2013.
He had then forwarded — through his personal assistant — “the entire correspondence relating to his signing of his final will” with a new heading titled “Last Will & Testament & Codicil” to lawyer Kwa Kim Li, his three children including herself and his daughters-in-law.
Referencing an email Mr LKY had written, in which he said that only a copy of the final will was going to be sent to Ms Kwa for her record, Dr Lee said: “This was the one and only occasion when my father wrote to Kwa Kim Li, his children and their spouses on his will in this manner. He included the entire correspondence leading up to the signing of the will.”
“Through all this and the new heading, he signalled finality on the matter of his will. To think otherwise is daft,” she said.
Just last week on Fri (28 Feb), Dr Lee wrote in a Facebook post that Mr LKY knew what he was signing and that he was the one who dictated the timing of the signing process of his final will.
Commenting on the findings of the Disciplinary Tribunal which had found Lee Suet Fern — lawyer and the wife of her brother Lee Hsien Yang — guilty of professional misconduct in handling the late Mr Lee’s will, Dr Lee said that contrary to the DT’s report, Mr Lee has “always been the man in charge, including for his final Will and Codicil”.
The DT in its report said that Mrs Lee had failed to inform Mr LKY that the draft last will included a demolition clause not present in the sixth will.
The demolition clause — which concerned the demolition of his family home at 38 Oxley Road — were present in Mr LKY’s first four wills. It was later removed from his fifth and sixth wills.
Mr LKY — who the tribunal said was 90 at the time, very frail and in poor health — had signed the last will out of trust in Mrs Lee’s words, namely that the content of the last will’s draft was the same as his first will in 2011.
Dr Lee in her Facebook post last Fri highlighted how her father, contrary to the DT’s findings, had read and initialled each page, including below the demolition clause on both copies of the will and another time two weeks later.
This, according to Dr Lee, was contrary to her brother Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s oath — made in a statutory declaration — stating that “There is no evidence Mr LKY even knew the demolition clause was re-inserted in the last will.”
She said that there was instead “incontrovertible evidence” that Mr LKY “knew what he was signing”.
“Hsien Loong and his AG [Attorney General] have suggested the process was rushed by my brother and/or his wife. But it was my father who dictated the timing,” wrote Dr Lee.
Quoting her late father, who had instructed Mr LHY not to wait for Ms Kwa and to instead have Mr LKY proceed with the execution of the will whether with a solicitor from Mrs Lee’s office or “any other office”, Dr Lee claimed that her father himself had told her that he wanted to revert to his 2011 will and was merely seeking a witness.
“He wanted very prompt follow up and was indifferent where the lawyer came from,” wrote Dr Lee.
Mrs Lee did not confirm with Mr Lee Kuan Yew if he wanted certain changes to be made, did not brief him thoroughly on provisions of the draft last will: Disciplinary Tribunal report on finding Mrs Lee guilty of professional misconduct in handling Mr LKY’s will
Mrs Lee’s case began when the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) referred her to the Law Society for a possible professional misconduct case.
The AGC stated that Mrs Lee had prepared the last will of Mr LKY and had arranged for Mr LHY to execute it despite her husband being one beneficiaries. The last will resulted in Mr LHY’s share in the late Mr Lee’s estate being increased.
AGC’s complaint followed the debate held in Parliament in 2017 in which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong — the brother of Mr LHY and Dr Lee Wei Ling, also one of the executors of the will — denied allegations put forth by his siblings in a public statement.
The will that took effect in 2015 was not contested by PM Lee.
The AGC said it had written to Mrs Lee several times to seek her explanation on her involvement in preparing the last will, but Mrs Lee did not answer its questions.
The tribunal, among its other findings, said that Mrs Lee did not seek to confirm if Mr Lee Kuan Yew wanted certain other changes to be made — by carefully going through the provisions in the draft of the last will — in the first place.
Mrs Lee, said the tribunal, “gave the briefest of advice to Mr Lee, and did not alert Mr Lee to all the differences between what Mr Lee had earlier wanted and what the last will actually provided for”.
Additionally, the tribunal noted that Mrs Lee did not advise Mr LKY to seek independent legal advice pertaining to the matter, especially given her own possible conflict of interest as Mr LHY’s wife and the absence of Ms Kwa.
Mrs Lee’s conduct, according to the tribunal, was in violation of a solicitor’s duties, particularly considering that Mr LHY was going to partially benefit from the will.
The final will, said the tribunal, increased Mr LHY’s share in Mr LKY’s estate.
Equal division of founding PM Lee Kuan Yew’s estate “not a new idea”: Mrs Lee Suet Fern’s lawyers
Mrs Lee’s lawyers in their defence submissions previously highlighted that the late Mr LKY had already indicated his desire to divide the shares equally in his original 2011 will, and had discussed making changes to his will with his lawyer Ms Kwa Kim Li from “at least November 2013”.
The lawyers highlighted that Mr LKY’s decision to revert to equally dividing the shares was made long before Mrs Lee was involved in the preparation of the will, and it was Ms Kwa who had advised him on the terms of his will.
“Mrs Lee merely forwarded what she thought was the original 2011 Will to Mr LKY, and copied it to Ms Kwa to be engrossed,” they said.
Noting that Mr LKY was a “sophisticated and shrewd individual with a starred double first in law from Cambridge University and experience of running a country for well over half a century”, the lawyers argued that Mr LKY “knew exactly what he wanted” and “was accustomed to having his instructions carried out without delay”.
Ms Kwa had, according to Mrs Lee’s lawyers, promised in a previous email that she would have prepared something for Mr Lee by the end of the week on 15 Dec. However, she had not done so.
It was thus evident, according to the lawyers, that Mr LKY himself could not wait for Ms Kwa any longer, as seen in Mr LKY’s instruction to Mr LHY — sent via email — to not wait for Ms Kwa and instead to have him sign the will, whether in Mrs Lee’s office or “from any other office”.
Further, the above also illustrated that Mr LKY was happy to execute the will before any solicitor, according to the defence.
Additionally, the question of conflict of interest — particularly regarding the Law Society’s suggestion that Mrs Lee had a role in helping increased Mr LHY’s share in the late Mr Lee’s estate — did not make sense, as the equal division of shares stated in the last will meant that Mr LHY’s share was in fact reduced.
Mr LHY in a Facebook post on 23 Feb shared Mrs Lee’s comments regarding the tribunal’s report.
“I disagree with the Disciplinary Tribunal’s report and will fight this strongly when it is heard in open court,” said Mrs Lee.
“Any member of the public can obtain the entire record of the closed-door proceedings of the Tribunal from the Law Society. I urge the public to look at these and come to their own independent conclusions,” she added.
Mrs Lee’s case will now be referred to the Court of Three Judges, which is Singapore’s apex disciplinary body in dealing with lawyers’ misconduct.
The lawyer may face a fine, or be suspended or disbarred from her profession.