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Part I - In search of two heiress
Part II - Mystery of the missing kin
Part III - Mystery-loving Goh brothers claim they managed to track down aunt of heiress who left $100m
Part IV - Aunt in photo will not get share of inheritance
Part V - API Raymond Goh takes a deeper analysis of the case
When the rich businessman Lim Yew Teok died in 1925, he left behind a strange will.
According to the will, the estate is divided into 95 shares to be given
out 21 years after the death of his last surviving child.
The 95 shares were given out as follows:
Lim Yew Teok's brothers' sons (total 10 shares)
2 shares to Lim Yew Teok (son of Lim Kim Chuan, brother of Lim Yew Teok)
2 shares to Lim Hian Nan (sons of Lim Kim Chuan)
2 shares to Lim Geok Mauh (son of Lim Sian Kak, brother of Lim Yew Teok)
2 shares to Lim Geok Gong (Son of Lim Sian Kak)
2 shares to Lim Geok Huan (son of Lim Chan, brother of Lim Yew Teok)
Lim Yew Teok's adopted sons (45 shares)
15 shares to Lim Geok Chip who have 5 children
15 shares to Lim Choo Yian who have 5 children
2 shares to Lim Geok Hoh who have 2 children (in China)
13 shares to Lim Boon Pin (the last surviving son)
Other shares (40 shares) which were held by Lim Chuui Ngor
10 shares to Lim Ah Kow (adopted son of Lim Geok Chai, - the adopted son of Lim Yew Teok who died before 1925, whom Lim Chye Inn and Chng Phee Lam's son - Lim Ah Kow, father of Lim Chhui Ngor)
10 shares to Chan Mek Tuan (wife of Lim Yew Teok), after her death, Chng Kiat Leng got 5 shares and Lim Chhui Ngor got 5 shares)
20 shares to Lim Chye Inn - these shares were later transferred to her 4 children Lim Ah Kow, Chng Kiat Leng, Chng Kim Soh and Chng Ah Dek
Judy Lim hold the above 40 shares which is the currently subject of interest.
Chng Phee Lam after the death of his wife, Lim Chye Inn (daughter of Lim Yew
Teok) married Ong Wei Kim.
He died on 5 January 1957 leaving him surviving Chng Kiat Leng and Ong Wei
Kim and four children by Ong Wei Kim.
The four children are Chng Heng Tat, Chng Heng Choo, Chng Heng Tee and Chng
Of the four children, Chng Heng Choo and Chng Heng Tee are now fighting for 15 of the shares of Lim Chuui Ngor 40 shares.
Family map of Lim Yew Teok
To understand in what grounds the High Court Judge decide to award Chng Heng Choo and Chng Heng Tee, the learned judge cite Clause 6 of Lim Yeow Teok will which I list as follows:
Clause 6 of the will contains six provisions.
(1) the testator leaves the residue of his property to his trustees upon trust for sale, conversion, payment of debts, funeral and testamentary expenses, and investment, and to hold the residuary estate until the date of distribution.
(2) the testator directs the trustees to pay out of the income $800 a month for the maintenance of the family house and a further sum for necessary repairs or renewals, and to divide the balance of the income into ninety-five equal shares and to pay the shares to the residuary legatees.
(3) the testator makes this provision:
or in the event of the death of any one or more of such legatees to the next of kin of such legatee or legatees so dead in accordance with the Statutes of Distribution.
(Sub Clause 1)
(4) the testator goes on to make this provision:
and in the event of the death of any one or more of such next of kin as aforesaid then to the next of kin of such next of kin in accordance with the Statutes of Distribution.
(Sub Clause 2)
(5), there follows this provision:
and only in the event of the complete failure of the stirps of any one or more of my residuary legatees shall the shares of such original residuary legatee or legatees fall into residue.
(Sub Clause 3)
(6) , the testator names as residuary legatees his wife, four sons, a daughter, a grandson and five nephews, and states the shares of income to which they are respectively entitled.
(Raymond remarks : Residuary legatees as follows:
Wife : Chan Mek Teok
Four sons : Lim Geok Chip, Lim Choo Yian, Lim Geok Hoh, Lim Boon Pin
Daughter : Lim Chye Inn
Grandson : Lim Ah Kow (son of Lim Chye Inn and Chng Phee Lam, adopted by Lim Geok Chai)
5 nephews : listed above)
The date of distribution is declared by cl 2 of the will to be at the expiration of 21 years from the death of the last surviving child of the testator. His last surviving child is Lim Boon Pin who is still alive in 1986.
High court judge Choo Han Teck's decision:
The Applicants’(trustees) preferred view is that all 40 shares should also fall into residue but have
indicated that should the court find otherwise, only 15 shares should not fall into residue if at all. And even if so, the said
15 shares should not devolve unto the Chngs. Finally, the Chngs on the other hand, take the position that only 25 out of
the 40 shares should fall into residue while the remaining 15 shares should pass directly to them.
The Applicants’ case is based broadly on 2 lines of reasoning. The first is that the 15 shares
cannot devolve unto the Chngs because they are the daughters of the second wife of LCN’s
grandfather. As such, the Applicants point out that the Chngs are clearly not LCN’s “descendents
Descendents should be taken to mean someone directly down the line in the family
tree, whom the Chngs are not.
The Applicants’ second line of reasoning as to why the 15 shares should not devolve unto
the Chngs, is that LCN is a “stirp” of one or more of the testator’s residuary legatees. Hence, the
Applicants submitted that the part of cl 6 that should apply in the present situation is “… and
only in the event of the complete failure of the stirps of any one or more of my residuary legatees
shall the shares of such original residuary legatee or legatees fall into residue”. By their
reasoning, since LCN was unmarried and had no children, it should follow that the 15 shares
should fall into residue due to LCN’s “complete failure”.
Notably, the Chngs themselves have accepted that the above reasoning is correct but only
insofar as the 25 shares are concerned. This was because LCN had derived them through a second
transfer (the Sub-Clause 2 stage) and on her death, the said shares should go to someone who was
not only a next of kin but also a stirp. And consequent to LCN’s complete failure, the 25 shares
ought to rightfully fall into residue. However, the Chngs’ case is that the other 15 shares which
they claim, can devolve unto someone who was simply a next of kin and not necessarily a stirp as
the said shares have only been through a first transfer (Sub-Clause 1 stage). The Chngs argue that
as her aunts, they qualify as LCN’s next of kin.
Raymond remarks : 15 shares of which is a first transfer refers to 10 shares by Lim Ah Kow, "son" of Lim Geok Chai (one of the adopted sons of Lim Yew Teok, who have died much earlier than the old man)
and 5 shares by Chan Mek Tuan (great grandmother) passed to Lim Chhui Ngor when she died in 1963
Hence the judge ruled that the 15 shares should fall under Sub Clause 2 of Cl 6 as follows
or in the event of the death of any one or more of such legatees (Chan Mek Tuan and Lim Ah Kow) to the next of kin (Lim Chui Ngor) of such legatee or legatees so dead in accordance with the Statutes of Distribution.
(Sub Clause 1)
and in the event of the death of any one or more of such next of kin (Lim Chuui Ngor) as aforesaid then to the next of kin of such next of kin in accordance with the Statutes of Distribution.
(Sub Clause 2)
The judge ruled that Chng Heng Choo and Chng Heng Tee, being half blood paternal aunts of Lim Chhui Ngor, qualifed as her next of kin under Sub Clause 2 of Clause 6 of Lim Yew Teok's will
I find it strange that the judge did not consider another pivotal clause in Lim Yew Teok's will, ie Clause 8 of the will. Many of the other previous court cases of this strange consider both Clause 6 and Clause 8 together to interpret the true construction of Lim's will such as
OS 56/1937 - 20 shares of Lim Chye Inn to 4 children of Lim Chye Inn and not to husband Chng Phee Lam
OS 61/1947 5 shares of Chng Kim Soh (daughter), 5 shares of Chng Ah Dek to Chng Phee Lam, their father after their death,
OS 112/1965 - Death of Chng Phee Lam, of his 10 shares, 5 shares to Chng Kiat Leng and 5 shares to Lim Chui Ngor, and not to Chng Heng Choo and Chng Heng Tee
OS 275/1984 Death of Chng Kiat Leng (son of Lim Chye Inn and Chng Phee Lam), 15 shares to Lim Chui Ngor
Clause 8 of the will. This clause reads as follows:
I direct that my trustees shall stand possessed of the residuary trust funds at the date of distribution in trust
(1) for such of my residuary legatees living at the date of distribution,
(2) the next of kin of such residuary legatees as shall have died prior to that date, and
(3) the next of kin of such of the descendants per stirpes of deceased residuary legatees as shall have died prior to that date.
Who is the next of kin of Lim Chhui Ngor ?
Two parties are competing :
Koh Tek Heng - Lim Chhui Ngor's mother's sister (aunt)
Chng Heng Tee and Chng Heng Choo - Lim Chuui Ngor's father half sisters (half blood aunt)
To determine who is the closer of the next of kin of Lim Chhui Ngor, lets take a look at Rule 8 of Intestate Succession Act, Chapter 146 of Singapore
1) If there are no surviving spouse, descendants, parents, brothers and sisters or their children or grandparents but uncles and aunts of the intestate the uncles and aunts shall take the whole of the estate in equal portions.
2) There shall be no distinction between those who are related to a person deceased through his father and those who are related to him through his mother nor between those who were actually born in his lifetime and those who at the date of his death were only conceived in the womb but who have subsequently been born alive; and
(b) those related to a person deceased by the half blood shall rank immediately after those of the whole blood related to him in the same degree.
From the above, it is my humble opinion that Koh Tek Heng would be a stronger case for next of kin compared with Chng Heng Tee and Chng Heng Choo.
Poser 2 -
Interpreting the true construction of Lim Yew Teok 's will
Justice Choo Han Teck said:
In consolidating the points made above, first, it was pertinent that the clause made a
distinction between “next of kin” and “stirps”. The use of the two separate terms indicated that
the testator’s intention must be for the two terms to connote different meanings. In the present
situation, my view is that the term “next of kin” was used generally here to encompass all blood
relatives. However, the term “stirps”, was used only in relation to descendents by blood. ….”. That is to say that while everyone in the
family tree under the said Will can be someone else’s next of kin, not everyone will be
considered a stirp.
In my humble opinion, in the case of Lim Yew Teok, we would have to consider his frame of mind and the situation of the Chinese society then in the 1920's when he made his will.
1) He has no natural sons and only 1 natural daughter, so he adopted 5 sons. He only give shares to male heirs, and also to the sons (not the daughters) of his brothers. The only exception he make was
20 shares which he gave to his only natural daughter. He treated his adopted son as his son, as he referred to them as his sons in his will.
In particular, the 10 shares of contention in this court case awarded to the Chngs, he give originally to his infant grandson Lim Ah Kow from his deceased son Lim Geok Chai, (even though Lim Geok Chai is a adopted son and adopted Lim Ah Kow from Lim Chye Inn/Chng Phee Lam so as to bear the surname Lim)
For a man of his time, the idea of male heir having the same surname to carry on the family bloodline is very strong, hence clause 6 and clause 8 are interlinked and should be read as a whole.
This can also be seen from the fact that the son of Lim CHye Inn, his natural daughter and Chng Phee Lam (hence the son should be a Chng), was named Lim Ah Kow instead, having been adopted by Lim family to carry on the family name.
Therefore in my humble opinion, Lim Yew Teok idea of distribution was as follows:
Any of the original residuary legatees living at the date of distribution, or the next of kin of such residuary legatees or the next of kin of the blood descendants of such deceased residuary legatees.
ie it seems to me that the next of kin would be someone very close to the residuary legatees or if they die, the next of kin of the stirpes, ie blood descendants of the residary legatees.
both clause 6 sub clause 3
and only in the event of the complete failure of the stirps of any one or more of my residuary legatees shall the shares of such original residuary legatee or legatees fall into residue
clause 8 sub clause 3
the next of kin of such of the descendants per stirpes of deceased residuary legatees as shall have died prior to that date
Nowhere does the Chng fall under clause 8.
Koh Tek Leh, if she is alive, would qualify as the next of kin of deceased residuary legatees ie Lim Ah Kow and next of kin of descendent of deceased residuary legatees ie Lim Chhui Ngor, if she is alive.
In my opinion, even Koh Tek Heng fail to satisfy clause 8.
Therefore clause 8 limits the next of kin as laid out under the sub clauses of clause 6, and does not encompass the whole blood relatives including uncles, aunts and so on.
Therefore In this case, after Lim Chhui Ngor has died, there was no next of kin for Lim Chhui Ngor. Chng Heng Tee and Chng Heng Choo would only be the next of kin of Chng Phee Lam (his children) who is the next of kin of Lim Chye Inn, a deceased residuary legatee. They cannot be considered the next of kin of Lim Chhui Ngor, the next of kin of deceased residuary legatee Lim Ah Kow (10 shares) or next of kin of
Lim Chui Ngor, the descendent per stirpes of deceased residary legatee Chan Mek Tuan.
There is a complete failure of the stirps here, therefore I think that the intention of Lim Yew Teok would be for the shares to fall into residue for the benefit of other Lims who hold the balance of the other shares.
And still, the case has not yet been closed. I am sure Koh Tek Heng will take the case to the Supreme Courts. Lim Yew Teok would never have imagine his strange will coming to such a stage 82 years after his death.
The other similar case would be that of the will of Seah Liang Seah (son of Seah Eu Chin) who died in 1925 - his assets could only be distributed until 21 years after the death of the last surviving child of King George V of English. This happen to be the Duke of Gloucester who died in 1974. 21 years after that would be 1995.
Amidst all the bickering and legal tusslings over the fortune, there is one ash urn sitting alone at the uppermost level of a columbarium, which is usually reserved for the unclaimed urns. (the uppermost level is one which you need a ladder to come up to see the urn)
Where the living survivors live, fight and fend for themselves, who will remember the dead who have contributed to the family ?
Pic of Koh Tek Leh
May God bless her soul