In a recent ruling, the High Court has ordered the sale of a S$700,000 flat in Toa Payoh, following a lawsuit filed by a woman against her brother on behalf of their elderly mother who suffers from dementia. The court’s decision entails dividing the proceeds equally between the mother and brother involved.
According to the Channel News Asia report, the case revolves around Madam Goh Siam Teow, 89, who purchased the flat jointly with her son, Mr Arthero Lim Tung Hee, 68, in 2001. Madam Goh has been diagnosed with “dementia” and “lacks the mental capacity to engage in litigation”, which prompted her eldest daughter, Madam Lim Sai Hong, 70, to act as her litigation representative.
In 2020, the joint tenancy of the flat was severed, and the property was held by Mdm Goh and her son as tenants-in-common in equal shares. Presently, only Mr Lim resides in the flat, where he has lived for the past 20 years. He has been renting out two rooms in the flat, generating approximately S$1,500 in monthly income that he uses for his living expenses.
Despite being a co-owner, Madam Goh has not received any portion of the rental proceeds. Instead, she has been residing with her eldest child, Madam Lim, since 2003. Seeking a resolution, Madam Lim filed a lawsuit requesting the sale of the property, with the proceeds to be divided equally between her mother and brother.
Mr Lim contested his sister’s authority to apply for the sale, claiming that she lacked the power to act as their mother’s litigation representative. He argued that he was a stroke patient without the financial means to move out, as doing so would result in losing his current rental income and a place to stay.
Madam Lim emphasized the necessity of selling the property to cover her mother’s mounting medical expenses, particularly given her worsening dementia. She stated that her own savings were insufficient and intended to utilize the sale proceeds for her mother’s long-term care.
Upon reviewing the case, Justice Choo Han Teck acknowledged that Mr Lim appeared to have no physical or mental impediments in presenting his own arguments. He noted that Mr Lim had been a painter but ceased working professionally after suffering a stroke, CNA reported.
Justice Choo further remarked that while Mr Lim’s concern about insufficient resources for his own upkeep if the flat were sold was valid, it needed to be weighed against the best interests of their ailing and elderly mother. The judge stated that it would be inequitable for the mother to be excluded from benefiting from the property while the brother retained full ownership benefits, concluding that selling the property was the fairest solution in these circumstances.
Justice Choo also took note of the welfare services that Mr Lim received support from, as well as the minimum sum of S$192,000 in his Central Provident Fund that would be refunded upon the sale of the flat.
With the High Court’s ruling to sell the Toa Payoh flat, the dispute between the siblings over ownership and rental income is set to be resolved, ensuring a fair division of the proceeds and addressing the financial burden of their mother’s medical expenses.
Proceeds to Be Split Between Mother and Brother
In the ongoing dispute over the sale of a Toa Payoh flat, the sister involved, Mdm Lim, had requested an equal division of the proceeds. However, her brother, Mr Lim, argued that he made a larger contribution towards the property’s purchase and sought a 60.31 percent share for himself, with their mother receiving 39.69 percent, according to the reports.
The funds used for acquiring the Toa Payoh flat originated from the sale of another property, amounting to approximately S$398,000. At the time of the sale, this sum was received solely by Mdm Goh. Nevertheless, Mr Lim contended that he was entitled to half of the proceeds, despite his mother repaying the housing loan of S$241,000 to HDB for purchasing the Toa Payoh flat.
Justice Choo reviewed the documents and found that Mr Lim had contributed only S$30,578.36 towards the housing loan, while the remaining cash payments were made by his mother. The judge noted that the failure to allocate rental proceeds, which had exceeded S$400,000 since 2003, to his mother settled any differences in contributions.
Given the absence of proper documentation, Justice Choo deemed it challenging to determine the exact breakdown of financial contributions made by both parties two decades ago. Consequently, he ruled in favor of selling the flat and dividing the proceeds equally between Mdm Goh and her son.
Mdm Goh’s legal counsel requested fixed costs of S$34,000, but Mr Lim, who claimed to be an unemployed stroke patient, expressed an inability to pay. Considering that Mdm Goh had incurred substantial legal costs to obtain the order for the flat’s sale, the judge instructed Mr Lim to bear costs amounting to S$12,000, inclusive of disbursements.
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