Evan Lim co-founder internal family law suit

Father sues daughter over co-owned properties worth more than S$11 million, wins suit that ‘split the family’

07 May 2024 08:27PM

Source: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/lawsuit-jointly-owned-properties-joint-tenant-father-sue-daughter-4318236

The man filed the lawsuit after his daughter tried to stop him from selling four properties, saying they belonged to her.

SINGAPORE: A father who sued his youngest daughter over four properties has won the right to sell them, a judge ruled on Monday (May 6).

Mr Lim Kim Toon, 90, took Ms Lim Hwee Hoon to court after she disputed his decision to sell the properties – which were bought for more than S$11 million (US$8 million) in total – and use the proceeds to buy another property for his grandson.

The 54-year-old said the properties – Boon Lay 222, Jurong West 164, 2 Dalhousie and Jurong West 225 – had been bought in their joint names and that her father had intended to give them to her as joint tenant.

“This action has split the family,” noted Justice Choo Han Teck, adding that Mr Lim’s youngest son as well as the son-in-law of his second child had sided with him.

Mr Lim’s four other children testified for Ms Lim.

Justice Choo ruled that, contrary to Ms Lim’s claims, Mr Lim intended to purchase the four properties for himself.

“It follows that the defendant holds her share in trust for the claimant, and the properties are to be sold or disposed of in the manner the claimant deems fit,” he said.


Mr Lim, who is the co-founder of Evan Lim Industrial/Warehousing Development, appointed Ms Lim as a director of the warehousing company in 1993.

Ms Lim served mainly as her father’s personal assistant as the latter is illiterate and can only speak Hokkien, while she holds a university degree and is fluent in English.

She was the only one among his six children that worked with him in Evan Lim Industrial/Warehousing Development.

The pair bought multiple properties in their joint names over the last 22 years.

These include the four disputed ones, which were purchased in 2004, 2017 and 2018, for S$11.6 million in total.

The purchase prices for all four properties were paid by Mr Lim.

Joint mortgages were taken out for two of the properties, while the other two properties were fully paid for via a joint UOB account.

Justice Choo said he was “inclined to believe” Mr Lim’s assertion that the source of the entire cash payment for 2 Dalhousie came from the sale of a separate property, Jurong West 235. Ms Lim had disputed the source of the cash payment, claiming part of it also came from the sale of a Yishun property.

However, the judge pointed out that the Yishun property she referred to was purchased as Mr Lim’s investment.

As for Jurong West 225, he added he was “inclined to believe” Mr Lim as bank records show he was the one who transferred funds from his personal fixed deposit accounts with UOB to the joint account to complete the purchase. Ms Lim had claimed the money for this property came from the sale proceeds of Jurong West 235 as well the Yishun property.

Mr Lim acknowledged he had agreed to his daughter’s suggestion to obtain and arrange the mortgages as he was already too old to procure them back in 2002.

He then left it to Ms Lim to get the necessary paperwork done. This included the legal documentation as well as the banking documentation, such as for opening the joint UOB account.

Mr Lim testified that he was unaware that Ms Lim had inserted her own name in these documents. He only realised his daughter had done so when she refused his decision to sell the four properties and said they belonged to her.

This was when he filed the lawsuit to recover the properties.


Justice Choo noted Mr Lim’s testimony was “without embellishment and without guile”, saying that despite being illiterate, he appeared “forthright” under cross-examination.

“I believe him when he said that it was the defendant (Ms Lim) who ‘put her name on the documents herself’,” the judge said, adding that he would have accepted Mr Lim’s evidence that he had bought the properties as investments for himself.

“But I need not rely just on my acceptance of the claimant’s testimony alone. The evidence on the whole incline towards the claimant’s version.”

Bringing up the first two disputed properties, which were bought in 2004, Judge Choo said it was “clear to me” that Mr Lim selected and bought them once the terms were acceptable to him.

On Mr Lim not knowing those two properties were purchased under joint names, he highlighted his illiterateness and noted that the “documentation for each property were done only once and thereafter, kept away”.

“The claimant had no interest in checking document he could not read and it was the defendant who kept both the office and personal records for the claimant.”

The judge also explained that whenever cash had to be used for the properties, Mr Lim was the one to make payment.

Though Ms Lim claimed that she should be credited for the payments made with the UOB joint account as well as another joint DBS account, Judge Choo pointed out that the evidence showed that Mr Lim was the one who controlled the money in the accounts and how it was to be used.

Ms Lim did not deposit any money independently into the joint accounts or use them for herself, he said.

Mr Lim had also purchased or helped his children purchase properties in their sole names, the judge added.

Ms Lim conceded this in court, acknowledging that her father had helped her in the financing of five properties in her sole name. This included the downpayment for a Mount Faber property that she bought in her name in 2005.

“That exposes the flaw in the defendant’s contention that the claimant gave the four properties to her as joint tenant,” said Justice Choo.

If Mr Lim had intended to give the four properties to Ms Lim as joint tenant, he would have given them to her in her sole name, just as he did with those five properties and the ones he gave his other children, he added.

He pointed out that it was more likely that the four disputed properties were purchased in joint names and joint accounts were used to manage them because Mr Lim was too old to obtain bank loans in his sole name.

Crucially, he said, the properties’ purchases and mortgage loans were all documented in English.

“The claimant had no clue what was written, not because he was dense, but because he was illiterate,” added Justice Choo.

Ms Lim claimed that the concept of joint tenancy was explained to her father by the conveyancing lawyer.

She also insisted that Mr Lim understood what a joint account entailed when she arranged for a banker to open it.

However, the judge said since Mr Lim was “clearly incapable of reading English”, it was “unclear” whether how the conversation between him and the banker transpired – if they even spoke at all.

Mr Lim demonstrated in court that he was aware of the existence of the joint accounts and that rental proceeds from the four properties were deposited into these accounts.

The judge pointed out that this was likely because Mr Lim had discovered in 2020 that rental proceeds from the properties were going into the accounts.

Upon this discovery, Mr Lim closed the UOB joint account himself and transferred its balance to his personal bank account, while directing Ms Lim to close the DBS joint account.

“I am of the view that based on his deposits and withdrawals of funds, as well as the control he had exerted over the closing of the accounts, the claimant had, at all material times, treated and operated the joint accounts as if they were under his sole name,” said the judge.

Justice Choo also raised the matter of the will that Mr Lim had made together with his wife in 2015.

The will showed that, even in 2015, Mr Lim had included the two disputed properties that had been bought in 2004 in a list of his assets for distribution, showing that he considered them his own.

Unlike her father, Ms Lim “appeared guarded and evaded answering questions directly many a time”, noted Justice Choo.

Despite having gathered the support of four of her siblings, the evidence they provided was “largely not helpful”, he said.

“They repeat each other’s words verbatim in a concerted effort to press home a point in which they had no personal knowledge – that the claimant intended to give the four properties to the defendant as joint tenant,” he added.

“The inferences from their evidence inclines me to find the defendant’s case contrived.”

But Justice Choo noted one of Ms Lim’s claims had a “ring of truth” – that her family had been “close-knit”.

“The evidence suggests that this was so – until the claimant wanted to sell the four properties,” he said.

“Even the tapestry of close-knit families can be unravelled by greed.”

The question of costs will be heard at a later date.

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