In The Name of My Father’s Estate (Episode 24)

By Peter Lee

When Mrs Patricia Lee (Lee Sr’s first wife) arrived in Singapore, she wasted no time and went straight to ZNA Bank, Singapore to withdraw the S$3 million from the joint account which she and her husband (Lee Sr) shared. While in the bank, the bank officer informed Mrs Patricia Lee that she could not withdraw alone as this account required two signatures. In addition, she was also informed that this account was at the moment frozen pending further clarification. Mrs Patricia Lee then asked the bank officer “Look here, this is my joint account with my husband. So, what kind of clarification do you need?” The bank officer replied, “I am sorry about this but our system shows that we have just received an email and also a phone call yesterday from a Malaysian lawyer claiming to represent your husband’s wife in Malaysia. They have informed us of your husband’s death and at the same time instructing us to freeze this account until they have obtained the Letter of Administration (L.A.).”

In a fit of anger, Mrs Patricia Lee said, “This is bloody ridiculous. Friends in Singapore have recently withdrawn the money in their joint bank accounts with their parents when their parents passed away without any problem. So, why can’t I do the same or does the practice vary in different banks?” The officer then replied, “Madam, I am not sure about other banks but at the moment our system shows that you cannot withdraw.” Mrs Patricia Lee then said, “Ok! I want to speak to your manager.” In response, the bank officer said, “Madam, can you take a seat and wait for a moment while I speak to my manager about this matter.”

After ten minutes, the officer came back and took her to see the bank manager. The manager then explained to Mrs Patricia Lee “Madam, I am sorry for this inconvenience but we are doing our best to solve this issue.” Before the Manager could continue, Mrs Patricia Lee intervened and said, “This account has nothing to do with my husband’s second wife. By the way, she was not legally married to my husband. So, she and her lawyer have no right whatsoever to freeze this account. The other thing is that the application for L.A. is only meant for assets in Malaysia, and I was told by my friends in Singapore that these types of accounts should be given to the survivor.” Then the manager said, “Ok  Ok! I understand your feelings but can you please let me finish explaining our position first?” Mrs Patricia Lee nodded and said, “Go ahead”. The manager proceeded and explained, “Firstly, I am going to get clarification from my legal department as to whether this money can be released to you. We realise that the bank has a ‘survivorship clause’ which means that the survivor of the account can receive the money. But your case is a unique case where I have a lawyer from Malaysia representing your husband’s second wife giving us instructions to freeze the account. For your information, I just received another reminder of this same instruction and this time telling us that they will take legal action against us if we release the money.” Mrs Patricia Lee then responded, “Why can’t you ignore their threats since you have the ‘survivorship clause’?” The Manager then replied, “Can you give me a day and I will come back to you on this tomorrow?” To this Mrs Patricia Lee said, “I hope to receive your good news or else I myself will be taking legal action against the bank.”

To be continued…

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