SINGAPORE, Nov 20 -- Lee Suet Fern, a lawyer, was suspended from practice for 15 months after she was found guilty of misconduct over the handling of the "Last Will" of her father-in-law, the late Lee Kuan Yew.
The written judgment of the Court of Three Judges which was delivered by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon today said that Suet Fern “is found guilty of misconduct unbefitting an advocate and solicitor despite the absence of an implied retainer."
Besides Chief Justice Menon, the Court of Three Judges, the highest disciplinary body dealing with lawyers' misconduct, comprised Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash and Justice Woo Bih Li.
The hearings took place in August this year and the application was brought by the Law Society of Singapore.
The application concerned Suet Fern’s participation, principally on Dec 16 and 17, 2013, in the preparation and execution of what became the Last Will of Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding father.
Prior to executing the Last Will, Kuan Yew executed six wills between Aug 20, 2011 and Nov 2, 2012, of which each of these wills were prepared by his solicitor, Kwa Kim Li.
Some of the key changes between the various wills included whether Kuan Yew’s estate would be left in equal or unequal shares to his three children, namely, Lee Hsien Loong, Dr Lee Wei Ling; and Suet Fern’s husband, Lee Hsien Yang.
Other changes included whether there was a stipulation of Kuan Yew’s wish that his house at 38 Oxley Road be demolished either upon his passing or after his daughter, Dr Wei Ling had moved out, whichever was later.
Under the First Will, Kuan Yew’s estate was left to his three children in equal shares, whereas under the Sixth Will, the will immediately preceding the Last Will, Dr Wei Ling was given an additional 1/7 share of the estate compared to her two brothers.
As for the Demolition Clause, it featured in the first four wills, but was omitted from the Fifth and Sixth Wills.
From around Nov 29, 2013 to Dec 13, 2013, Kuan Yew discussed with Kwa some changes which he wished to make to the Sixth Will which was executed on Nov 2, 2012.
His professed intention was to execute a codicil to his Sixth Will that would revert to leaving his estate in equal shares to his three children; and make provision for two carpets to be bequeathed to Hsien Yang.
His discussions with Kwa did not extend to replacing the Sixth Will with another will, nor to reinstate either the First Will as a whole or the Demolition Clause in particular, according to the judges.
On Dec 16, 2013, Suet Fern sent an email to Kuan Yew, copying to Hsien Yang and Kwa, although it appeared that Kwa, for some unknown reasons, did not receive that email.
In that email, Suet Fern attached a draft will that appeared to have been dated Aug 19, 2011, and informed Kuan Yew that “[t]his was the original agreed Will which ensures that all 3 children receive equal shares”.
She also requested Kwa to “please engross” the Draft Last Will.
According to the judges, it was undisputed that the words “original agreed Will” in the email were intended by Suet Fern to refer to Kuan Yew’s First Will and would have been understood by him as such.
It was also undisputed that the Draft Last Will was executed by Kuan Yew on Dec 17, 2013 without any substantive amendment, and became his Last Will.
"Although the Respondent told the Testator that the Draft Last Will was the First Will, it in fact differed from the latter in a number of respects," according to the judges.
Malaysian National News Agency
No.28 Jalan BERNAMA
Off Jalan Tun Razak
50400 Kuala Lumpur
Tel : +603-2693 9933 (General Line)
Email : helpdesk[at]bernama.com