SINGAPORE – Eighteen children and grandchildren of an Indonesian-Chinese businessman who lost their inheritance or had their share reduced as a result of his will being found invalid, have sued the lawyers who prepared the document.
Alleging negligence, they are claiming about A$719,000 (S$819,000) from lawyer Johnny Cheo Chai Beng and his firm Cheo Yeoh & Associates.
The sum is the difference between what they would have received under the will and what they received eventually.
The will, made by Mr Kusno Ali in 2006, was invalid as it was signed in the presence of only one witness – Mr Cheo – when the law requires at least two.
Based in Indonesia, Mr Ali made a will in Singapore to deal with the distribution of his assets in Singapore – A$1.8 million in a Citibank account.
The patriarch, who had six children, willed this to four of them – three were to get 20 per cent each while the other, 10 per cent. He also willed 2 per cent to each of his 15 grandchildren. He died in 2010 at age 87. After the will was found to be invalid, the money was split equally among his six children, according to intestacy laws.
This meant that three children saw their initial share shrink to 16.67 per cent, while the grandchildren received nothing.
On the other hand, the two children not named in the will had a windfall, while the other saw an increase in his share. They did not sue the lawyers.
The three children and 15 grandchildren, represented by Mr Andrew Ho, said they lost their rightful inheritance because the defendants were negligent in the drafting and witnessing of the will.
But the defendants, represented by Mr Chandra Mohan, said a lawyer does not owe any duty of care to a will’s beneficiaries.
They contend that the plaintiffs have not made enough effort to get the unintended beneficiaries to renounce their windfall.
An eight-day hearing, which started yesterday, continues.