Kate Galloway: James Cook University
In late June, the Court of Appeal in Singapore handed down the decision in Chan Yuen Lan v See Fong Mun. The case concerns a claim by the husband in a long-standing marriage, Mr See, for an interest in property held in the sole name of his wife, Madam Chan.
Mdm Chan had contributed her life savings of $250,000 to the purchase of property worth some millions of dollars at the date of trial. Mr See argued that her contribution was simply a loan and that Mdm Chan had wanted to be the owner, so that she could tell her friends that she held the title. As between themselves, he said, she should acknowledge Mr See as the true owner of the property. On Mr See’s evidence, this was done by way of power of attorney in his favour, that embodied this acknowledgement.
At the time of the purchase in 1983, Mr See had taken a lover. Mdm Chan argued that she needed the property as financial security because of Mr See’s infidelity, and not because of a desire to brag to her friends. She said that Mr See had agreed to her holding the title in her name to appease her over his affair and his infidelity.
This case again raises the issue of women’s status before the courts and the underlying assumptions about property across the common law world.