The verdict as to Lee Suet Fern’s (Mrs Lee) disciplinary hearing in relation to her role in the amendment of Lee Kuan Yew’s (LKY) Will (Final WIll) is now final with no further recourse to appeal. The basis of the Law Society’s case against her is that there was a conflict of interest present in her involvement with the Final Will because her husband, Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) was a Beneficiary in the Final Will.
While the Court of Three Judges (COTJ) ordered Mrs Lee to be suspended from legal practice in Singapore for 15 months, it is noteworthy that none of Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash and High Court judge Woo Bih Li were of the opinion that there was a solicitor-client relationship between Mrs Lee and LKY. Further, the Court also found no dishonesty in Mrs Lee’s dealings with LKY and nor was there any finding that the Final Will was procured by fraud or undue influence.
In view of this, it, therefore, seems tenuous to find Mrs Lee guilty of misconduct when it was accepted that she was not LKY’s lawyer in the first place?
Yet, the highest disciplinary body for the legal profession in Singapore found Mrs Lee guilty of misconduct which was unbefitting an advocate and solicitor, saying that she had “blindly followed the directions of her husband, a significant beneficiary under the very will whose execution she helped to rush through”.
So, it would appear that the basis for her 15-month suspension hangs on the premise that there was a conflict of interest that arose because her husband was a Beneficiary.
What then of LKY’s Will in 1995 (1995 Will)?
The 1995 Will was publicly said to be drafted by LKY’s wife, Kwa Geok Choo (KGC), a prominent Singaporean lawyer who was the co-founder and partner of law firm Lee & Lee.
Apart from drafting the 1995 Will, KGC was also a significant beneficiary to the 1995 Will with LKY bequeathing all movable and immovable property to her as his wife. Isn’t that a conflict of interest too?
In fact, it is arguably an even bigger conflict of interest than Mrs Lee’s!
Mrs Lee was not a direct Beneficiary to LKY’s Final Will – her husband was. KGC, however, was a direct beneficiary of the 1995 Will that she also drafted! Why then was nothing said of her conflict of interest in the matter?
If helping in the arrange in the witnessing of the Final Will where her husband (not her) was a beneficiary constitutes as a conflict of interest for Mrs Lee, isn’t drafting a Will where you are also a significant beneficiary (as in KGC’s case) much worse?
Noting that LKY was alive and well in the production of both the 1995 will and his last will in Dec 2013, why then prosecute Mrs Lee when nothing was said of KGC back in 1995? And with the ruling by the COTJ, would lawyers now be adverse to providing assistance to family members since they can be censured as in Mrs Lee’s case?
Correction made on Mrs Lee’s role in the will