Yeo Kia Yong and Others v Yeo Kia Hock

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeChan Seng Onn JC
Judgment Date17 June 1998
Neutral Citation[1998] SGHC 203
Citation[1998] SGHC 203
Defendant CounselChia Foon Yeow (Tan Peng Chin & Partners)
Date17 June 1998
Docket NumberOriginating Summons No 1154 of 1997
Plaintiff CounselLisa Sam (Donaldson & Burkinshaw)
Published date19 September 2003
Subject MatterPresumption of advancement,Capacity of parties,Long lapse of time after knowledge of trust,Evidence,Trustees,Acquiescence,Chinese document,Whether minor can be trustee of resulting trust,Whether testator acting under undue influence from sons when drafting chinese document,whether defendant understands what he signs,Equity,Whether defendant holding as trustee for two other brothers whose names not on the deed,Admissibility,No consideration for conveyance,Formation,Minor already a registered owner,Whether document admissible to rebut presumption of advancement,Factors to consider in rebutting presumption of advancement,Trustee is a minor when executing document,Prejudicial to father and estate,Whether plaintiffs succeed in rebutting presumption of advancement,Trusts,Plea of non est factum,Conveyance for purpose of evading estate duty,Whether inequitable after this long lapse for defendant to adopt different position from that agreed to in Chinese document,Consideration,When does time start running,Whether action barred under s 154 of Land Titles Act,Whether evidence of illegal purpose admissible,Whether the action time-barred,Contract,Defences,Undue influence,Documentary evidence,Presumed,ss 154 & 166 Land Titles Act (Cap 157) , s 9 Limitation Act (Cap 163),Limitation,Application of exception under s 154(1)(d),Civil Procedure


The plaintiffs in this originating summons seek, inter alia, a declaration that the property known as 5 Rosyth Avenue, Singapore 546233 (`property`) is held by the first, second plaintiffs and the defendant on trust for sale for all four plaintiffs and the defendant in equal shares.

2.The main issue is whether the defendant is entitled to a one-third share in the property under an indenture of conveyance dated 25 March 1972 (`indenture`) or is his share limited to one-fifth, being one of the five beneficiaries under (a) the will dated 29 May 1962 of their deceased father, Yeo Boon Khin (`father`); and (b) the family arrangement evidenced by a Chinese document, dated 4 May 1972 (`Chinese document`).

3.On 22 August 1952, the father purchased the property in his own name. Ten years later, he made a will stating, inter alia, that his five sons, Yeo Kia Yong (first plaintiff - PW1), Yeo Kiah Tiang (second plaintiff), Yeo Kia Hua (third plaintiff - PW3), Yeo Kia Huat (fourth plaintiff - PW4) and Yeo Kia Hock (`defendant`), hereinafter referred to collectively as the `five sons`, were to be the beneficiaries of all his real estate in equal shares.

3.Ten years after making the will, the father executed the indenture purporting that he, as the vendor, had agreed to sell his property to the purchasers, Yeo Kia Yong (first plaintiff), Yeo Kiah Tiang (second plaintiff) and Yeo Kia Hock (defendant), hereinafter collectively referred to as the `three sons`, at a price of $40,000. The indenture stated that in consideration of $40,000 having been paid on or before the execution of the indenture (the receipt of which the father acknowledged), he conveyed the property to his three sons as tenants-in-common in equal shares. The indenture, which was signed, sealed and delivered, had the usual certification by a practising solicitor stating that the father had voluntarily executed it. The indenture was registered with the Registry of Deeds on 15 April 1972. M/s Allen [commat] Gledhill prepared the indenture and acted for both the vendor and the three purchasers in the purported sale and purchase. See exhs PBD 11 to 13; 22 to 25.

4.Nineteen days after the registration of the indenture, the father instructed his five sons to execute a Chinese document, which he drafted. The father was illiterate in English but he could write Chinese characters and read them out in Teochew. The Chinese document as translated is as follows:


Makers of the document of proof are:

Yang Jiarong, Yang Jiahua, Yang Jiafa, Yang Jiazhan and Yang Jiafu.

The five of us are brothers and we have jointly contributed a sum of forty thousand dollars in acquisition of the property at Unit No 5, Rosyth, Hougang, Singapore District 19. (Written in English as No 5, Rosyth Avenue, S`pore 19.) The title deed of the said property is under the three names of Yang Jiarong, Yang Jiazhan and Yang Jiafu. However, the property is actually shared among the five of us and although the two names Yang Jiahua and Yang Jiafa are not included in the title deed, they do have a share in the property. This property belongs to the five of us and each of us has an equal share. There shall be no dispute over the share of the property in future. In case verbal statements bear no evidence, this document is hereby drawn up in black and white as proof.

On the instruction of father, signed: Yang Wenqin

Witness: Cousin, Fang Jiazhao

Persons who hold equal share of the property:

Eldest son: Yang Jiarong (signed)
Second son: Yang Jiahua (signed)
Third son: Yang Jiafa (signed)
Fourth son: Yang Jiazhan (signed)
Fifth son: Yang Jiafu (signed)

Dated this fourth day of May 1972

5.In the above document, Yang Jiarong, Yang Jiahua, Yang Jiafa, Yang Jiazhan and Yang Jiafu were the first, third, fourth, second plaintiffs and the defendant respectively. Yang Wenqin was the father and Fang Jiazhao was Poon Kay Teow.

6. Execution of the Chinese document

PW5, Mr Poon Kay Teow, said that he signed five copies of the Chinese document in his father`s shop at 16 North Canal Road in the presence of his uncle, Yeo Boon Khin.

7.His uncle told PW5 to sign as a witness. He informed PW5 that his property was to be given to his five sons but only Kia Yong, Kiah Tiang and Kia Hock`s names were on the title deed. Although Kia Hua and Kia Huat`s names were left out, nevertheless they had a share in the property. He said that he made the Chinese document as proof so that his sons would not quarrel in future. PW5 appeared to me to be an impartial witness and I have no reason to disbelieve him.

8.The first plaintiff, PW1, testified that he signed the Chinese document before his father in a shop at 16 North Canal Road called Chop Yong Hoong. His father had explained the Chinese document to him.

9.The third plaintiff, PW3, testified that he and the fourth plaintiff signed the Chinese document in the presence of their father in the living room at 263 River Valley Road. Their father, PW5 and first plaintiff had signed earlier. PW3 said that their father had told them in Teochew that the property was to be shared among five persons although the third and fourth plaintiffs` names were not on the title deed. He said that they should not fight over it as they had equal shares. Since `word of mouth bore no evidence, this document was made as proof`. Then their father asked the third plaintiff to append his signature to five copies of the Chinese document. After the third plaintiff had signed, he handed the copies over to the fourth plaintiff for him to sign. Thereafter, their father put them into the safe.

10.The fourth plaintiff, PW4, gave a slightly different version. He said that his father had read out the Chinese document in Teochew to him and in doing so, he further elaborated on its contents. The fourth plaintiff then became aware that the property was in the names of three persons. Nonetheless, he understood that both the third plaintiff and himself had an equal share in the property although their names were not on the title deed. He signed after the third plaintiff had done so. At that time, the second plaintiff and the defendant were in the same room waiting for their turn. When the fourth plaintiff finished signing, the second plaintiff and the defendant came closer to the table. Their father repeated the process and read out the document in Teochew to the second plaintiff. The second plaintiff signed on the five copies. Their father took the copies back and passed it to the defendant. Their father read out the Chinese document in Teochew to the defendant. The defendant did not say anything but he was listening. Subsequently, the defendant signed the five copies and handed them back to their father, who thereafter placed a stamp on each of the documents. It was put to PW4 that he did not see his father reading the Chinese document to the defendant. However, PW4 maintained his evidence unreservedly.

11.According to the defendant, he was brought to a lawyer`s office to sign the Chinese document. He was only 14 years old at that time. He remembered that it was an extremely small office with files tied with strings. His father was not there but Yeo Kiah Tiang, the second plaintiff, was with him. The second plaintiff signed first. A Chinese gentleman present then asked him to sign. He recalled that the stamps were already on the copies of the Chinese document. Someone pointed a finger at the location where he should sign and he signed. He could not recall who it was. Neither could he recall the number of copies he had signed. The Chinese gentleman did not explain the contents of the Chinese document to him. The defendant could not read Chinese and did not understand what he signed. Neither was he interested in what he was signing at that time.

12. Family background

The defendant is the youngest of the five sons. He and the second plaintiff are the sons of their father`s second wife, Madam Tan Bak Noi. The rest are from their father`s first wife. The first plaintiff is the eldest son, followed by the third plaintiff and then the fourth plaintiff. When the first wife died in 1946 during the Japanese occupation at the age of 31 years, their father married the younger sister of the first wife in order to ensure that his three sons from his first wife would be well-looked after. After the second marriage, the father had two more sons (ie second plaintiff and defendant) and four daughters.

13.The third plaintiff in his affidavit described the difficult times that their father, first and fourth plaintiff and himself had undergone before the Second World War and during the Japanese Occupation. They had only biscuits and sweet potatoes to eat for their meals. When they were between six to nine years old, they started to help in their father`s handicraft trade by sawing, filing and polishing buffalo horns into combs for sale. After the Japanese Occupation, they had to do reprocessing work at home by cleaning gunny sacks and sacks of betel nuts of their husk and hair. To supplement their father`s income, they also cleaned poor grade birds` nest coves of tiny feathers and hair, which were brought to their house by importers. After their father`s second marriage and through hard work, their father achieved some success in his business venture. He gained a small share in his elder sister`s trading business. Eventually, he bought a piece of land at 5 Rosyth Avenue next to his sister`s house. There was a special closeness between their father and his sister and he placed great value in harmony amongst all his children.

14.According to the first plaintiff, their father had always valued unity in the family and he believed that there should always be love amongst the brothers and sisters. There should be no quarrels amongst siblings.

15.Three years after he purchased the property at 5 Rosyth Avenue, he built a bungalow house on it. Initially, their grandmother and the fourth plaintiff were the only persons...

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