Court overrules CPF nomination due to depression
IN A novel case, the High Court has set aside the Central Provident Fund (CPF) nomination of a dead businessman, based on doubts that he was in the right mind when he signed the form.
Saw Eng Soon, who died at age 63 in 2013, had named Chinese national, Liu Jiu Chang, 26, as beneficiary of close to $40,000 in CPF monies. But the court ruled that Mr Saw might have been "functionally incapable" of deciding on the CPF nomination as he was depressed then.
Judicial Commissioner Aedit Abdullah, however, stressed in judgment grounds released yesterday: " The finding that there was a real possibility of depression affecting Mr Saw's mental capacity does not translate into a proposition that depression will always affect testamentary capacity in the same way."
Mr Saw first met Ms Liu in 2010 while she was interning as a hotel waitress and treated her like a god-daughter. In 2011, he began to tell her his problems, including his business difficulties, mood swings and depression. He signed the CPF nomination form in October 2011.
He also told her in 2012 that his wife was divorcing him and he was on sleeping pills. She said he confided in her more often and started showing suicidal tendencies. He was found hanging from a rope in 2013 in an apparent suicide.
Leow Li Yoon, 61, his wife of about 43 years, discontinued the divorce suit and challenged the CPF nomination in court but a district judge dismissed the claim.
She appealed to the High Court, where her lawyer V Ramesh argued that the District Judge had erred in rejecting her claim that Mr Saw lacked the mental capacity when he signed the CPF Form. Mr Ramesh said sufficient medical and factual evidence had been produced to show that he had reactive depression before, during and after the CPF form was signed. Ms Liu, who represented herself, said her claim to the monies was valid and she did no wrong.
The judge, in overruling the lower court decision, found that Mr Saw did not have the requisite mental capacity when he signed the nomination form. He had sought mental health treatment since December 2011 at places like National University Hospital (NUH).
The judge pointed out that the NUH report showed Mr Saw had low moods, reactive depression and suicidal thoughts during a three-month period coinciding with the signing of the form.
The judge held that Ms Liu had not been able to show Mr Saw had the requisite mental capacity then. He set aside the nomination and ruled that the CPF funds be disbursed under intestate rules.
The Straits Times understands that besides the CPF money, Mr Saw also left a will. This states that proceeds from a maisonette he owned be distributed in specified sums to Ms Liu and another Chinese national and several others; what is left, if any, will go to his son, two daughters and wife.