Complete Property Market Updates of Singapore

July 24, 2008

Desperately seeking help to get sister to sell mum’s flat

Filed under: General,Property Q & A — Propertymarketupdates @ 1:52 am

Q My mom made a will under my sister’s advice that, upon her death, her flat should be sold and divided equally into three shares for her three children. My sister put her name as an executor of the will.

At this moment, my sister is living in my deceased mother’s flat after selling a flat she co-owned with her ex-husband. She asked our permission to stay in the flat, as she had no home for herself, her three children and a granddaughter.

We allowed her to use the flat for six months and then to sell it as soon as possible or, as she wanted, to buy over the flat at valuation price. Now, after 10 months, she made another request that we sell her the flat at $30,000 below the valuation price because she could not get a higher housing loan.

As an executor of a will, can she sell the flat at any price she wants and divide it according to the will? What would be a fair option for all of us? What legal rights does the executor have over the will of the deceased?

A Your sister, as the executor, is duty-bound to administer your late mother’s estate in accordance with the contents of your mother’s will.

She has no right to act in any way other than in accordance with the will. In doing so, she must also protect the beneficiaries’ interest.

She should, therefore, sell the flat within a reasonable period of time from the date of your mother’s death and distribute the proceeds equally among the three beneficiaries.

She may postpone the sale only if there is a good reason to do so in the exercise of her honest discretion and prudence. For example, if she is genuinely using her discretion to wait for a price better than the existing offers because the existing offers are below market rates or because property prices are moving up.

In your case, it appears that your sister has put herself in a position of conflict of interest or duty.

Her duty conflicts with her desire to postpone the sale, so that she may benefit herself by living in the flat or buy it at a price below the market rate. Her procrastination and intended purchase will deprive the beneficiaries of the prompt receipt of a greater amount of sale proceeds.

It appears that your sister has ignored your request to promptly sell the flat at valuation price.

From what you shared, there is no good reason for your sister to withhold the sale other than for her own benefit. In this case, you may seek your remedy in court, either for an order directing your sister to sell the property without further undue delay or to hold her personally liable to the beneficiaries for the profit they should receive if she uses due diligence in the administration of your late mother’s estate.

Lie Chin Chin
Managing Director
Characterist (incorporating Lie Kee Pong Partnership)

Advice provided in this column is not meant as a substitute for comprehensive professional advice.

Source : Sunday Times – 8 Jun 2008

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June 21, 2008

Trustee should distribute sale proceeds according to terms

Filed under: General,Land Sale,Property Q & A — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:15 pm

Q I read your advice on how to claim a share of an estate, and I have some queries.

If there is a piece of land in the name of a trustee:

Is it possible for the trustee to sell it without the knowledge of the descendants of the person who entrusted it to him?

And if so, does the trustee get to keep all the proceeds?

How can we check if a transaction has been made and if the proceeds have been paid out?

A A trust is set up when a settlor gives an asset to a trustee on behalf of a beneficiary. The trust can be set up immediately, during the settlor’s lifetime or, if it is stated in the settlor’s will, it will take effect only upon the settlor’s death.

The trustee holds the legal title to the asset, while the beneficiary will inherit the asset.

It is possible for the trustee to sell the asset (in this case, the land) without the knowledge of the beneficiary.

However, under the law, whatever the trustee does, he has to ensure that everything is done for the benefit of the beneficiary and according to the terms of the trust.

The trustee will, therefore, have to distribute the proceeds of the sale according to the terms of the trust and should not keep all the proceeds – unless he is one of the beneficiaries under the trust, in which case he is entitled to keep his share according to the terms of the trust.

You can check with the Singapore Land Authority to find out whether the piece of land has been sold and, if so, to whom and for how much.

Alternatively, you may wish to engage a lawyer to do the necessary searches for you.

Note also that the beneficiary has the right to ask the trustee for an account of the income and expenses of the trust to date.

Ang Kim Lan
Goodwins Law Corporation

Source : Sunday Times – 25 May 2008

June 11, 2008

Wife not automatically entitled to half of HDB flat

Filed under: General,HBD Reviews,Property Q & A — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:19 am

Q I am filing for divorce. My wife and I have an HDB flat with a joint-name tenancy status of equal share. Both of us are working, and we are childless.
 
My wife, however, did not contribute anything to the payment for the flat, as well as to the monthly loan instalments. We agreed to get divorced, and that I would pay her a lump sum that she had agreed to.

Is my wife still entitled to claim 50 per cent from the sale of the flat when our divorce case is finalised? Can I retain the flat while my divorce is being finalised?

A You did not indicate when you were married. There are statutory restrictions on a couple filing for divorce within the first three years of their marriage. You can only commence divorce proceedings within the first three years of your marriage if the court gives you permission to do so.

You must prove to the court that your case is one of exceptional hardship or there is exceptional depravity on the part of your spouse. If you are unable to do so, you will only be able to commence divorce proceedings after three years from the date of your marriage.

Your Housing Board flat is a matrimonial asset subject to division when the court deals with the divorce. You did not state whether you purchased your flat directly from the HDB or the open market. You also did not mention the type of HDB flat that you purchased.

These are important as there are restrictions imposed by the HDB on whether parties are eligible to sell their flat on the open market. This depends on whether they have fulfilled the requisite minimum occupation period, the type of flat they purchased, whether they have obtained a Central Provident Fund Housing Grant and whether they have taken a loan from the HDB.

You should verify with the HDB as to your eligibility to sell the flat. If parties are unable to sell the flat on the open market, then it has to be surrendered to the HDB upon the finalisation of the divorce proceedings.

You have indicated that you wish to retain the flat. This can be an alternative to surrendering it to the HDB. However, in order for you to retain it, you must satisfy one of the eligibility schemes as prescribed by the HDB.

You may wish to consult the HDB’s officers as to the various eligibility schemes they offer. Assuming you are eligible to retain your HDB flat, the court can make an order allowing you to retain it. This, however, means that you will have to pay your spouse her rightful entitlement to her share of the flat.

As to your query about your wife claiming 50 per cent of the proceeds arising from the sale, this is on the assumption that you are eligible to sell the flat on the open market in the first place.

Your wife may also decide to claim half of the flat’s value in the event you decide to retain the flat. Your wife is not automatically entitled to 50 per cent of it. The court takes into account many factors when deciding how much each party will be entitled to. This will depend on the financial contribution each party makes to the acquisition of the flat.

You mentioned that your wife did not contribute any payment for the purchase of the flat or towards the monthly instalments.

She will still be able to establish her claim to the flat by relying on her indirect contributions, such as looking after the home or caring for the family or any form of assistance rendered to you in the carrying on of your business.

The extent of her indirect contributions will invariably depend on the length of your marriage. If your marriage is of a short duration and you do not have any children, your wife’s indirect contributions may not be as substantial as compared to a case involving a lengthy marriage where parties have children.

Raymond Yeo
Partner, Harry Elias Partnership

Source : Sunday Times – 18 May 2008

June 4, 2008

My brother doesn’t want China bride to inherit flat

Filed under: General,Property Q & A — Propertymarketupdates @ 5:01 am

Q My uncle and brother bought an HDB flat together as joint tenants. They paid the mortgage in full. My uncle died a few years ago, so my brother automatically became the sole owner of the flat. He married a Chinese national last year.

What can my brother do to prevent his wife from getting the flat should he suffer any mishap? He feels that she does not deserve to get the flat as she has not contributed a single cent to the household.

A It would be advisable for your brother to make a will in which he wills away his assets, including the flat, to specified beneficiaries other than his wife. It would also be advisable not to register her officially as a permitted occupier of the flat, as this could give rise to complications over her continued right of occupancy and, ultimately, the disposal of the flat after his death.

That said, as his wife, she is his dependant and would have played some sort of spousal role. Thus, it might not be fair or conscionable for him not to leave anything at all to her after his demise.

It might, therefore, be prudent to bequeath to her some part of his assets, whether in cash or other forms. If he wants to bequeath Central Provident Fund monies, he must make a specific nomination. Otherwise, these will be divided according to intestacy laws, under which his wife would have a share of his CPF.

If your brother fails to provide for her (or for any lawful children from their marriage), she is entitled as his dependant, under Chapter 138 of the Inheritance (Family Provision) Act, to apply to the courts for reasonable maintenance to be paid out of his net estate.

The court will assess her claims and other relevant factors – such as her income-earning ability, present or future sources of capital or income, and conduct towards your brother. If the court deems it appropriate, it will make provision for her reasonable maintenance from your brother’s net estate.

If your brother does not wish to bequeath to her any part of his estate and his reasons are sound – for example, he has more than adequately provided for her in his lifetime (by, say, putting some cash, assets or savings under her name), or if her conduct towards him or the marriage justifies his actions in leaving her out of the will – he should make this clear in his will.

The court will then assess the case in the light of the reasons provided in his will.

Lim Choi Ming
Partner, KhattarWong

Advice provided in this column is not meant as a substitute for comprehensive professional advice

Source : Sunday Times – 11 May 2008

February 28, 2008

Must I charge GST for work on residential building project?

Filed under: Property Q & A,Tax Matters — Propertymarketupdates @ 4:57 pm

Q I RUN a GST-registered construction firm. I have some questions on the GST treatments for the various types of supplies in the construction industry.

Do I have to charge goods and services tax (GST) on my construction services for a residential property project?

A Yes, you have to charge GST at the prevailing tax rate on all construction services performed in Singapore, regardless of whether the services are for residential or non-residential properties.

However, construction services supplied in connection with land or improvements situated outside Singapore can be zero-rated.

I was awarded a sub-contract to provide both tile and flooring works for a project. However, my main contractor provided the tiles required for the flooring works. Hence, I will charge my main contractor GST on the net amount payable after deducting the value of the tiles. Is this correct?

You are to issue a tax invoice with GST charged to your main contractor for the gross value of your sub-contract work.

The supply of tiles from your main contractor is a separate supply to you, for which the main contractor should issue you a tax invoice for the value of the tiles if he is GST-registered. You may then claim input tax on the GST charged by the main contractor.

Illustration:

The contract sum of sub-contract works for supplying and laying tiles is $15,000. The main contractor supplies tiles of $8,000 in value to the sub-contractor. The sub-contractor bills main contractor for $7,000 (that is, $15,000 less $8,000). Both are GST-registered.

The sub-contractor is to charge GST on $15,000, although he may deduct the value of the tiles in his billing to the main contractor. If the value of sub-contract works is $15,000, GST of 7 per cent comes to $1,050. The amount including GST is $16,050.

Deducting the value of the tiles of $8,000, the net amount payable is $8,050. The sub-contractor’s output tax is $1,050 and the main-contractor’s output tax is $560. The sub-contractor can claim this $560 as his input tax.

For more details, please refer to the new e-Tax guide on GST And The Construction Industry available on Iras’ website www.iras.gov.sg

For SME-related enquiries, please visit EnterpriseOne at www.business.gov.sg or e-mail enterpriseone@spring.gov.sg

Source : Straits Times – 6 Feb 2008

December 20, 2007

Quick guide to selling en bloc

Filed under: Collective Sale,Property Q & A — Propertymarketupdates @ 10:43 am

Getting started

1. Owners should establish if a collective sale is feasible by talking to property consultants.

2. Seek advice from lawyers, property consultants and managing agents on how to draft and send requisition forms and the agenda for an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to all owners.

3. Signed EGM requisition forms are needed from at least 20 per cent of the owners by share value or 25 per cent by the number of units. Submit the forms to the secretary of the management council (MC).

4. The MC will convene the EGM with 14 days’ notice. Get advice from lawyers and your managing agent on important rules relating to the conduct of EGMs.

Appointment of collective sale committee

1. Elect members for the collective sale committee at the first EGM. Also, discuss the appointment of a property consultant and lawyer.

2. The appointed property consultant will advise the collective sale committee on the proposed reserve price for the estate, the method of apportionment and other commercial matters. The appointed lawyer will advise on the collective sale agreement and other legal matters.

3. The collective sale committee will convene the second EGM with 14 days’ notice.

4. At the second EGM, discuss the apportionment method and terms of the collective sale agreement.

Signing of the collective sale agreement

1. Consent for the sale is needed from at least 80 per cent of the owners by share value as well as strata area. This level goes up to 90 per cent if the property is less than 10 years old.

The appointed lawyer should be present to witness the signing of the collective sale agreement, if it is signed in Singapore, and to explain legal terms.

2. The collective sale committee will convene the third EGM with 14 days’ notice, after obtaining the required approval level for a collective sale.

3. At the third EGM, the collective sale committee will update owners on the signing status of the collective sale agreement and the proposed sale terms and process before the launch of the public tender or auction.

Sale

1. Market the estate and obtain the valuation report. Evaluate bids and award the tender to the best bidder. A private treaty deal is possible within 10 weeks of the close of the tender or auction.

2. The collective sale committee will convene the fourth EGM after serving 14 days’ notice.

3. At the fourth EGM, provide information on the offers received and discuss the terms and conditions of the sale and purchase agreement.

4. The collective sale committee and lawyer will apply to the Strata Titles Board (STB) for an order of sale if the estate does not have a 100 per cent approval rate from owners. STB will call for mediation session(s) and/or formal hearing(s). It will issue an order of sale if the sale is approved.

5. The sale is usually completed in about three months’ time from the day that 100 per cent consensus is obtained, or from the day that an order of sale is obtained from STB. Owners receive the sale proceeds (less the retention sum if they continue to stay on after the completion of the sale).

Vacating premises

1. Owners typically enjoy a rent-free stay of up to six months, if it is provided for in the sale and purchase agreement.

2. Owners/occupants will move out and owners will deliver vacant possession to the buyer. Owners will receive the retention sum.

Please note that the above serves merely as a summarised guide, and is not to be taken as complete advice, or the only correct steps that may be taken.

Please consult the relevant professionals on the above matters for their views and advice.

Article contributed by Credo Real Estate

Source : Sunday Times – 18 Nov 2007

To buy or to rent

Filed under: Investment Tips,Property Q & A — Propertymarketupdates @ 10:42 am

HOME ownership may be the ultimate dream for some or a given for others.

As far as aspirations go, it certainly ranks highly in Singapore, but unless you have wads of cash lying idle, the question of whether to buy a home, as opposed to renting one, should still be carefully deliberated.

There are financial consultants who declare that buying – instead of renting – is one of the smartest financial decisions a person can ever make in his lifetime.

The reason is simple. Owning a home allows one to build wealth through the rise in the value of their homes over the long haul.

On the flip side, owning a home is a long-term financial commitment and may be the biggest investment one will ever make.

If you take the plunge, you are locked into repaying massive long-term debt, and there are penalties to breaking your mortgage.

You may even lose your home one day if your financial situation changes and you can’t pay up.

This is why lower-income families, particularly, have to think twice as they are prone to defaults, said Mr Leong Sze Hian, president of the Society of Financial Service Professionals.

In Singapore, unlike in the United States, mortgages are not on a “non-recourse” basis, meaning home owners are responsible for any remaining debt after foreclosure, he added.

“In the US, they just take your home. They can’t touch your assets,” said Mr Leong.

In Singapore, if there is still a shortfall owing to the bank after foreclosure, it can make the borrower a bankrupt.

Renting is a far simpler process to manage financially. You cough up the rent, and the landlord takes care of most other troublesome financial matters – such as paying maintenance fees and the cost of major repairs.

Buying, on the other hand, requires you to have a ready sum of money upfront. That is because potential home owners need cash to settle costs, such as the booking fee and agent commissions.

Say yes to buying only if you have plans to stay put for a while – because it may take several years or more for your property to appreciate in value.

Those who committed to a home around the time of the previous property market peak in 1996 know this only too well.

Singapore’s property market came crashing down soon after and only really started to pick up again almost nine years later from the end of 2004.

How long this holding period will last depends, of course, on when you enter the market. And given the current buoyancy of the market, the question on whether to buy or rent is oft-heard.

The problem with it is that no one really knows for sure where the market is headed and the extent of its climb or fall.

“What we know with more certainty is that when the property market has gone up for a lot for a very long time, the higher is the probability of it coming down,” said Mr Leong.

The lower and longer it has gone down, the higher the probability of it going up, he said.

“If we subscribe to this theory, then, in my view, the market may still have some way to go.”

That is because prices of all private residential properties are still about 12 per cent below their previous high in 1996, said Mr Leong. The HDB resale price index is still about 16 per cent below the 1996 peak.

Lately, the prices of new HDB flats have risen, helping to push up the overall market.

“However, like a double-edged sword, if even HDB flats become unaffordable and beyond the reach of most Singaporeans, the market may crash,” warned Mr Leong. If people cannot even afford new HDB flats, the market will not hold unless foreign buyers continue to buy private property, he said.

Since January, private home rentals have jumped by 32.2 per cent, compared with only 14.1 per cent for the whole of last year.

“As it stands now, with rentals going up, buying looks better. But if we look at the period from 1996 to say 2005, renting may have been better,” said Mr Leong.

Ms Evelyn Wu, 32, has been renting for six years now but is now considering buying her own place. “I don’t want to be caught by the uncertainty of the rental market when my lease is up,” said the retail manager.

“I’ve already busted my budget by $600 a month for my current place. It’s a hooligan market.”

For now, Mr Chris Firth, chief executive of wealth management firm dollarDEX, believes that buying a home remains a good idea as there is an upside in the residential property market.

“Our analysis has shown a strong correlation between residential property price movements and the previous year’s stock market returns,” he said.

“Since 2007 looks like a good year for stocks, 2008 should be another good year for housing.”

That is barring a severe setback in China or the global stock markets, which could quickly turn sentiment sour, he said.

“On balance, it would seem to be time to buy rather than rent or sell, although buyers need to work hard at finding value,” added Mr Firth. “They need to look for under-loved locations.”

Source : Sunday Times – 18 Nov 2007

October 15, 2007

Can mum block sale of jointly owned home?

Filed under: Property Q & A — Propertymarketupdates @ 8:52 pm

Q I MARRIED recently and I am trying to move out of a home that I bought with my mother. The property was purchased for $800,000 and we recently entered into an agreement to sell it for $600,000. The buyer has already exercised his option to purchase.

My mother is having second thoughts and might try to block the sale. She contributed to the initial 20 per cent down payment, while I took a loan and was solely responsible for servicing this loan. I also took care of all the related expenses for the property, such as utilities and maintenance fees.

In terms of ownership, my wife has a 1 per cent share, while my mother and I have a joint tenancy agreement.

1) If my mother refuses to sell, what can I do besides getting a court order? Now that the buyer has exercised the option, what is the next step to completion? Do I still need my mother’s signature?

2) In terms of property division, how is any profit or loss calculated? Which of the following items need to be taken into account?

– My mother’s cash contribution

– My Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution

– Payment to the bank for the loan

– Renovations to the home

– Stamp duties

– Bank penalties for redemption of the loan

There will be no cash proceeds from the sale. The bank will take the first charge to redeem the outstanding loan. The remainder will be paid back into my CPF account.

3) What is the next thing I should do to ensure that the sale goes through?

A ONCE the option is exercised by the buyer, the agreement becomes binding on the sellers, who are obliged to proceed with the sale.

There is probably only one other document that needs to be signed before completion can take place: the transfer document in favour of the buyer. All the three sellers – you, your wife and your mother – need to sign this document to effectively transfer ownership of the property to the buyer. If your mother refuses to sign, the right accrues to the buyer to obtain a court order directing her to do so.

The option is an agreement that governs the rights and liabilities between seller and buyer; it is not an agreement between the three sellers vis-a-vis each other. Thus, it is the buyer, not you, who will have the right to get a court order for your mother’s signature.

Your lawyers will help you to ascertain the amount that will have to be paid to the bank and to the CPF Board, and what additional sums will be payable by the sellers on completion, if any.

The sale proceeds will cover only the bank loan and the refund to the CPF Board. Your mother’s cash contribution and any money paid for stamp duties and renovations to the home are ‘monies lost’, and the three of you will have to resolve among yourselves how to settle this loss.

In my opinion, you have no recourse against each other for apportionment of the loss. The three sellers will have to prepare money for the payment of any bank penalties, which will be payable on or before completion.

You might try persuading your mother to proceed with the sale by explaining to her the possible consequences if she chooses to back out.

She needs to understand that the sale is subject to the terms laid out under the Law Society of Singapore Conditions of Sale 1999. One of the conditions of sale provides that if the sellers fail and/or refuse to proceed with the sale, then the buyer can elect to obtain either a court order to force the sellers to complete the sale, or an order against the sellers for an award of damages.

If the buyer elects to claim for damages, the measure of damages payable by the sellers to him will be assessed by the court. This will mainly be the difference between the market value of the property on the date that the buyer elects the remedy of damages and the sale price of $600,000.

It would therefore not be profitable at all for your mother to back out of the sale. In fact, she might get into an unnecessary legal entanglement that could result in losses for and damages against all three of you.

Lie Chin Chin Managing Director Characterist LLC (incorporating Lie Kee Pong Partnership)

Advice provided in this column is not meant as a substitute for comprehensive professional advice.

Source : Sunday Times – 7 Oct 2007

September 28, 2007

Buy second home but don’t over-commit

Filed under: Investment Tips,Property Q & A,Regulators — Propertymarketupdates @ 11:57 pm

MANPOWER Minister Ng Eng Hen yesterday cautioned against over-committing when buying property at the expense of putting aside money for retirement.

The good news though is that with the latest changes, Central Provident Fund (CPF) members will be able to achieve both home ownership and retirement security, he said.

Indeed, with the new CPF system, more than eight in 10 new entrants to the workforce will meet their Minimum Sum for retirement. This is even for low-wage workers and even after buying their first home.

‘So our home ownership need not be sacrificed for retirement adequacy. We can have both,’ said Dr Ng.

But the problem, he pointed out, comes when some Singaporeans over-commit in buying bigger and subsequent homes.

It was an issue raised by Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim (Marine Parade GRC), who recounted how a resident was shocked by the large amount of money he received after selling his house.

Dr Ng said it was good that some of these people put the gains from the sale of their houses into their CPF accounts.

‘These people sell their first homes but plough back gains from the sale of their first home and purchase a bigger home. And I think this is a good thing,’ he said.

‘It’s a good aspiration that Singaporeans can own bigger homes if they can afford it.’

But he also had a reminder for them: They ought to consider how much funds they could plough into their retirement savings before buying the bigger home.

‘If he had put that money early into his special or retirement accounts which now earn 5 per cent on the first $60,000, compounded over a number of years, it adds up,’ he said. ‘We should study how to advise first-home sellers about this. I think it’s a good idea that we pay some attention to it.’

Source : Straits Times – 20 Sep 2007

May 13, 2007

For sale: Family values?

Filed under: Property Q & A — Propertymarketupdates @ 8:30 am

You read property mogul Kwek Leng Beng’s gung-ho outlook on property prices in yesterday’s The Business Times and your eyes glaze with dollar signs.

The property bull may keep charging on till 2012 or beyond! says the Hong Leong Group executive chairman, whose astute eye on property prices is almost always spot on. In the first quarter, it has risen by 4.8per cent.

You whip out your calculator. You dream of selling your family home. You salivate over a windfall…

And greed takes over.

Then your eyes fall on your stubborn or potentially sneaky father or mother, son or daughter, brother or sister.

They’ll never agree, you think. Will they stand in my way?

And what if they take a big chunk of the money and run off?

CAN I TRUST THEM?

And suddenly, you start looking at them in a different, dark light.

Money as the root of all evil? That’s a no-brainer. Another no-brainer: That Singapore families bank most of their hopes on the value of their property, that the bulk of our savings is tied up in property.

Property, dear boy, you can’t go wrong with property in Singapore. And so mums and dads buy, and then will their property to their children.

And so, when the time comes to cash in, family values, even filial piety, is threatened.

A quick reading of the property disputes in the past 12 months suggest this is becoming, increasingly, Singapore’s unique version of the property bubble.

Wills, deeds, many minds and one big, big decision can mean squabbles for some families, and full-blown wars for others.

As if in tandem with rising property prices, there seems to be an increase in the number of families torn apart by court disputes over property gains.

There is the Tan family, whose squabble has become very ugly and very public (and some say, very petty), on pages 2 and 3.

There was the ugly $100-million fight among relatives over the decrepit Mitre Hotel, which ended less than two weeks ago.

There was Madam Hwang Chow, 80, whose story was reported in this newspaper in February. She sued her elder daughter and son-in-law for more than $520,000, which she claimed was her share of the profits after the sale of a house.

The case was settled, with Madam Hwang getting an undisclosed amount.

Happy ending? No. She now regrets that she will never be able to reconcile with her daughter, who died of hypertension three days after court papers were served on her.

At the time her case was reported, Madam Hwang and her granddaughter were no longer on talking terms.

Then there was the Chew family’s court battle, which saw an elderly couple take their eldest son to court for over $1 million.

The bulk of the money was from the $890,000 sale of a shophouse on Cactus Road.

After the parents won in August last year, the father, Mr Chew Tong Seng, 72, told this newspaper: ‘We’ll pretend that we never had such a son. We slogged to raise our children yet this is how he repays us.’

Justice Tan Lee Meng called it a ’sad’ and ‘bitter’ affair.

There have been at least seven cases of families embroiled in legal battles over property in the past year alone. And these were only the ones that were reported.

Families that could and should have been celebrating their windfalls were instead torn apart, bitter, as the judge said, and sad.

And, perhaps, wondering privately how it had come to this.

So as the property bull continues its run and more Singapore families consider cashing in, it may be worthwhile to look at the lessons from such cases and consider issues beyond dollars and cents.

At the micro level: Could this happen to my family? Could greed possibly divide us too?

At the macro level, a pertinent question: In a supposedly Confucianist society, with a premium placed on family values and filial piety, is the basic building block of society in danger of being demolished by greed’s wrecking ball?

Source: The New Paper, 10 May 2007

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