Widow changed mind, left 2 houses to son
IN 2002, the wife of one of the founding directors of food and beverage company Yeo Hiap Seng made a will, leaving one house each to her eldest son's two children.
Over the years, Ng Lay Hua made more wills. By the last one in 2012, she had cut the two grandchildren out completely. Instead, she left the two houses to her younger son Henry, whom she also appointed as the sole executor.
Despite a challenge to the validity of the later wills by eldest son Charles and his two children, the High Court upheld it and found that Madam Ng had the necessary mental capacity to make her last will.
In a 79-page written judgment released on Wednesday, Senior Judge Andrew Ang concluded that Madam Ng's decision to disinherit the two grandchildren was not made on the spur of a moment.
Madam Ng, a devout Christian, had openly declared to family members that she was not leaving her grandson any inheritance as she was disappointed in him for marrying a non-Christian and for not attending church regularly.
The matriarch did not give a specific reason for excluding her granddaughter from her will.
Madam Ng suffered from depression in the last years of her life but her mental illness was not serious enough to affect her decision to exclude the two grandchildren from her will in 2012, said Justice Ang.
"I find it difficult to accept that just because Madam Ng suffered severe depression, her testamentary disposition had to be set aside," he added.
Madam Ng, whose husband Yeo Chee Kiat is a grandson of Yeo Hiap Seng founder Yeo Keng Lian, had two sons and two daughters. Her husband died in 1985.
Her estate included a detached house in Sian Tuan Avenue, a semi-detached house in Watten Terrace, a detached house in Hua Guan Avenue and a portfolio of stocks and shares.
In 2002, she willed the Sian Tuan house to Charles' son, the Watten Terrace house to Charles' daughter, and the Hua Guan Avenue house to Henry and the daughter of her eldest daughter Wee Tsan.
By 2012, the Sian Tuan Avenue and Watten Terrace properties were willed to Henry instead, making him the main beneficiary. Henry is married with no children.
Justice Ang said Madam Ng's decision to leave the bulk of her estate to Henry is "consistent with the high likelihood that he was her favourite son".
The judge noted that Henry cared for Madam Ng in her old age, spoke to her in a quiet and gentle manner, managed her affairs, chauffeured her around, attended worship services with her and took her out for meals.
Justice Ang noted that Madam Ng had instructed her lawyer to change the wills. This was not a case where a will was prepared on instructions by someone who stood to benefit.