Lim Choo Hin v Lim Sai Ing Peggy

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtHigh Court
JudgeWoo Bih Li JAD,Kee Oon J,Chua Lee Ming J
Judgment Date15 December 2021
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 37 of 2021
Lim Choo Hin (as the sole executrix of the estate of Lim Guan Heong, deceased)
and
Lim Sai Ing Peggy

[2021] SGHC(A) 22

Woo Bih Li JAD, See Kee Oon J and Chua Lee Ming J

Civil Appeal No 37 of 2021

Appellate Division of the High Court

GiftsInter vivos — Sole registered proprietor of Housing and Development Board flat transferring flat to himself and daughter as joint tenants — Whether transfer intended as gift

Trusts — Resulting trusts — Housing and Development Board flat purportedly held on resulting trust — Whether purported trust null and void under Housing and Development Act (Cap 129, 2004 Rev Ed) — Sections 51(8) and 51(9) Housing and Development Act (Cap 129, 2004 Rev Ed)

Trusts — Resulting trusts — Presumed resulting trusts — Sole registered proprietor of Housing and Development Board flat transferring flat to himself and daughter as joint tenants — Whether presumption of resulting trust applied

Held, allowing the appeal:

(1) The evidence in its totality supported the appellant's position that the respondent had provided no prior or contemporaneous consideration for the 1981 Transfer. However, while a gratuitous transfer of property normally gave rise to a presumption of resulting trust in the transferor's favour, the court was not obliged to rely on such a presumption if there was direct evidence that could adequately reveal the transferor's intention. It was only when the court was not able to find any clear intention, or if the evidence was inconclusive as to what the transferor's real intention might be, that the court should apply the presumption: at [7] and [8].

(2) The title deed to the Flat and the transfer instrument for the 1981 Transfer were not conclusive of Mr Lim's actual intent or state of mind as at the time when the 1981 Transfer was effected: at [11].

(3) The weight of the evidence as a whole did not support the respondent's position that the 1981 Transfer had been intended as a gift. On the contrary, the evidence in its totality was sufficiently strong to establish, on a balance of probabilities, that Mr Lim had not intended to gift a beneficial interest in the Flat to the respondent. As such, it was not necessary to apply the presumption of resulting trust or invoke the presumption of advancement. The respondent, being the sole legal owner of the Flat, held the Flat on trust for the Estate: at [13], [23] and [24].

(4) The trust in Mr Lim's favour was in the nature of a resulting trust, not an express trust, and ss 51(8) and 51(9) of the HDA were therefore inapplicable here. Section 51(10) of the HDA was similarly inapplicable as it did not extend to situations where the person in whose favour the trust arose already had an interest in the flat in question. In the present case, Mr Lim had already possessed an interest in the Flat before the 1981 Transfer: at [27] and [28].

(5) While there were apparent disputes of fact in the present case, the respondent had not seen fit to apply for the present matter to be heard by way of writ action in the hearing below or to seek an order to cross-examine certain deponents on their affidavits. Having elected to forgo the opportunity to do so, the respondent should not be permitted to change her stance on appeal. In any event, the points which the respondent intended to pursue in cross-examination would not affect the court's decision: at [31] and [32].

Case(s) referred to

Chan Yuen Lan v See Fong Mun [2014] 3 SLR 1048 (folld)

Lau Siew Kim v Yeo Guan Chye Terence [2008] 2 SLR(R) 108; [2008] 2 SLR 108 (folld)

Lee Nellie v Wong Lai Kay [1990] 1 SLR(R) 215; [1990] SLR 314 (refd)

Lim Chen Yeow Kelvin v Goh Chin Peng [2008] 4 SLR(R) 783; [2008] 4 SLR 783 (folld)

Lim Kieuh Huat v Lim Teck Leng [2020] SGHC 181 (refd)

Lim Kieuh Huat v Lim Teck Leng [2021] 1 SLR 1328, CA (distd)

LS Investment Pte Ltd v Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura [1998] 3 SLR(R) 369; [1998] 3 SLR 754 (refd)

Mak Saw Ching v Yam Hui Min, Barbara Rebecca [2014] SGHC 212 (distd)

Tan Chui Lian v Neo Liew Eng [2007] 1 SLR(R) 265; [2007] 1 SLR 265 (refd)

TDA v TCZ [2016] 3 SLR 329 (folld)

Facts

The parties were children of the late Mr Lim Guan Heong (“Mr Lim”). In 1976, Mr Lim became the sole registered proprietor of a Housing and Development Board flat located at Jalan Batu (“the Flat”). In 1981, Mr Lim applied to register the respondent as a joint tenant of the Flat (“the 1981 Transfer”). Upon Mr Lim's death in 2015, title to the Flat devolved to the respondent under the right of survivorship.

The appellant subsequently brought an application by way of originating summons in her capacity as the sole executrix of Mr Lim's estate (“the Estate”), seeking a declaration that the respondent held the Flat on trust for Mr Lim, as well as other consequential relief. The High Court dismissed the appellant's application on the basis that the documentary evidence unequivocally showed that Mr Lim had intended to confer his beneficial interest in the Flat to himself and the respondent as joint tenants by way of inter vivos gift.

The appellant appealed against the High Court's decision, arguing, inter alia, that a presumption of resulting trust had arisen in Mr Lim's favour such that the respondent held the beneficial interest in the Flat on behalf of the Estate. The respondent contended that there was no basis for the presumption of resulting trust to operate, and that even if a presumption of resulting trust had arisen, it would have been displaced by the counter-presumption of advancement. In the alternative, any trust in respect of the Flat would be prohibited under s 51(8) or 51(9) of the Housing and Development Act (Cap 129, 2004 Rev Ed) (“HDA”). The respondent further submitted that if the court was not with her on the facts, the appellant's application should be converted into a writ action so that her allegations could be tested at trial.

Legislation referred to

Housing and Development Act (Cap 129, 2004 Rev Ed) ss 51(8), 51(9), 51(10) (consd)

Rules of Court (2014 Rev Ed) O 28 r 8(1) (consd)

Ivan Lee Tze Chuen and Letchamanan Devadason (LegalStandard LLP) for the appellant;

Lim Cheng Hock Lawrence (Matthew Chiong Partnership) for the respondent.

15 December 2021

See Kee Oon J (delivering the grounds of decision of the court):

Introduction

1 The appellant (“LCH”) brought this appeal against the High Court judge's decision in HC/OS 168/2020 (“OS 168”). In OS 168, LCH sought a declaration that the respondent (“LSI”) holds a Housing and Development Board (“HDB”) flat located at 2 Jalan Batu #[xxx], Singapore 430002 (“the Flat”), on trust for the estate of their late father, Mr Lim Guan Heong (“Mr Lim”), as well as other consequential relief. The parties are two of Mr Lim's eight children (comprising seven daughters and a son). LCH has brought the action in OS 168 solely in her capacity as the sole executrix of Mr Lim's estate (“the Estate”).

2 In 1975, Mr Lim entered into a sale and purchase agreement to purchase the Flat and became its sole registered proprietor in 1976. However, in 1981, LSI became registered as a joint tenant of the Flat (“the 1981 Transfer”). In 2001, LCH also became registered as a joint tenant of the Flat, but subsequently removed her name from the Flat of her own accord in 2013 because she wanted to become eligible to...

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