“Deed of Gift”: Here’s what Lee Hsien Yang’s latest post means in the context of the Lee family saga

This gets trickier and trickier.

By Jeanette Tan | June 19, 2017

Another day, another revelation: on Monday, June 19, PM Lee Hsien Loong’s younger brother Hsien Yang dropped two screenshots of a letter that brings in a new issue relating to their late father’s estate.

This time, it concerns the exhibition that’s currently displayed at the National Museum — We Built A Nation — that first opened in September 2015, and the terms upon which the late Lee Kuan Yew’s estate (represented by Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling), donated items from 38 Oxley Road to the museum for the exhibition.

The “Deed of Gift”

To understand the context of this, we must first return to the first statement issued by Hsien Yang and Wei Ling last Wednesday, where this phrase is first mentioned.

“We executed a Deed of Gift in 2015 with the National Heritage Board for the donation and public exhibition
of significant items from our parents’ home, with a stipulation that Lee Kuan Yew’s wish for the demolition of 38 Oxley Road be displayed prominently at the exhibition.

However, after the gift’s acceptance we soon received letters with spurious objections from Hsien Loong’s then personal lawyer, Lucien Wong.

A deed of gift refers to a document that basically declares a particular property to belong to another person, which is signed by the owner of the property or item. It would also specify any conditions that may come with the donation.

In this case, the Deed of Gift executed by the younger Lee siblings specified the requirement for LKY’s wish for the house to be demolished to be displayed “prominently” at the exhibition, as explained above.

The images Hsien Yang posted below serve to substantiate the sentences bolded in the above quote from their initial statement — a second emailed legal letter that detailed PM Lee’s objections to the terms stated in the Deed, as well as what is to him and Wei Ling the potentially-disturbing fact that Hsien Loong had managed to obtain a copy of the Deed not from his siblings, but from the National Heritage Board:

Photo from Lee Hsien Yang’s Facebook post
Photo from Lee Hsien Yang’s Facebook post

This emailed letter, says Hsien Yang, was sent just hours after the first letter demanding a copy of the Deed on June 12, 2015.

He followed up with the following question, alongside a couple others, in a status on his Facebook page:

“Did LHL acquire the Deed of Gift in his public capacity, or his private capacity?”

Who has the right to issue the Deed of Gift? Hsien Yang / Wei Ling or Hsien Loong?

Now, there’s a different issue with this whole matter that’s worth thinking about, actually. Here’re three pieces of information that might relate to what we’re looking at:

1) We now know that the house on 38 Oxley Road (and likely, by extension, the items inside it) was bequeathed in its entirety to PM Lee (in case you were wondering, the late LKY’s estate extends significantly beyond that house alone).

That said, we don’t know the precise details of this either. It’s possible, for instance, that he was bequeathed the building but not the items in them.

2) His younger siblings, executors of LKY’s will, obtained probate on their dad’s final will dated December 17, 2013 on October 6, 2015.

3) The three siblings came to a settlement for Hsien Loong to sell number 38 Oxley Road at full market price to Hsien Yang, with Hsien Yang adding on 50 per cent of the price he paid to Hsien Loong to donate to charity. In his own declaration, PM Lee says he, too, donated 50 per cent of the house’s value to charity. This settlement was arrived at in late 2015, likely after the exhibition started.

Again, it’s possible there’s more to this than what we know.

Here’s the thing though: pending the execution of a person’s will, the property a deceased person owns belongs to and is controlled by the person’s estate — in this case, Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling.

However, before they can, for instance, donate a bunch of items to the government or a museum for an exhibition, they do need to seek permission to do that from the named beneficiary of the said items.

Therefore, if number 38 Oxley Road was to be bequeathed in its entirety (including all the stuff inside) to PM Lee, the younger siblings do have to seek his permission before carrying out the Deed of Gift for the items they donated to the exhibition.

But we don’t know what LKY’s will actually says about this.

Nonetheless, some things to think about.

You can read Hsien Yang’s post in full here:

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Top photos by Tan Guan Zhen

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About Jeanette Tan

Jeanette takes pride in her ability to sing the complete lyrics to Hakuna Matata and a host of other Disney songs. She holds out hope to someday be talent-spotted to do voice-overs for documentaries, lifts and automated telephone answering systems.

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