Dividing assets after divorce easier now

Dividing assets after divorce easier now

 

Recent CPF rule changes will help divorced women get their fair share from sale of matrimonial home

 

By Lorna Tan

 

DIVORCED couples have benefited from recent changes in Central Provident Fund (CPF) rules, which allow for a more ‘equitable’ distribution of their CPF monies when they divide their matrimonial assets.

 

Previously, divorced women often got very little from the sale of the matrimonial home. The changes, which came into effect on Oct1 last year, are an attempt to help them get more money and not face financial hardship.

 

One of the changes allows a member to transfer money from his or her CPF account into the CPF account of his or her former spouse.

 

For instance, under the old ruling, if $100,000 had been used out of a member’s CPF account to buy the matrimonial property, the $100,000 would have had to go back into his CPF account together with the accrued interest once the property was sold. This was the case even if the court had awarded his ex-spouse half the proceeds, or $50,000. The reason was that members were not allowed to withdraw their CPF money until the age of 55.

 

With the change, the court can order the transfer of $50,000 from the member’s CPF account into his ex- spouse’s account.

 

Another change allows for the immediate transfer of a piece of property to the former spouse.

 

In the past, when a member had used his CPF money to buy property and the court ordered ownership to be transferred to his ex-spouse, the member had to return the due amount to his CPF account.

 

In cases where a wife had no money to make the refund to her ex-husband’s account, the transfer could not take place. The court might then have to order a sale of the property, which might not be ideal in a weak property climate.

 

With the rule change, the member or his former spouse no longer needs to put back into his CPF account whatever money had been taken out for the property.

 

But should the former wife wish to sell the property later, she will be required to refund her own CPF monies withdrawn, as well as what her ex-husband had withdrawn.

 

So far, five divorce cases handled by law firm KhattarWong have benefited from the revised rulings. So too four handled by another law firm, Characterist.

 

Source: Straits Times

100 in a house

100 in a house

 

The tenants, all foreigners, moved in late last year and are packed into 17 rooms carved out with partition boards

 

By Jamie Ee

 

IT IS a house of 100 tenants in Geylang.

 

No, that’s not the title of the latest drama serial on TV but an extreme case of overcrowding in a three-storey terrace house in Geylang Lorong 28.

 

Understandably, the neighbours are upset over this.

 

Take the case of taxi driver Chan Kok Chuan, 46, who lives just next door. When his TV set could not receive any transmission last month, he checked the antenna and found that it had been tampered with. The TV signals were being redirected to the neighbouring house, which had been converted into a workers’ dormitory.

 

Furious, Mr Chan, who lives with his wife and two children, informed the police.

 

On another occasion, he had also called to complain about the littering outside his house.

 

His neighbours – some 100 foreigners – moved in late last year.

 

The house had been rented to a couple from China. They then sublet it to workers and students from China, Vietnam, Myanmar and Malaysia. Most are men.

 

They pay about $150 a month for a bed space in one of the 17 tiny rooms carved out using partition boards. The balcony on the second storey has also been converted into a bedroom.

 

Neighbours, alarmed by the big influx of tenants, alerted the authorities.

 

In January, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) issued a warning letter to the owner of the house who, neighbours say, is a Singaporean man in his 50s.

 

Private homes are not allowed to be turned into workers’ dormitories because of the inconvenience that the tenants might pose to the neighbours, the URA said.

 

Over the last 12 months, it had received 20 to 30 complaints a month on this matter. Offenders can be fined up to $200,000, face up to 12 months in jail, or both.

 

The owner of the Geylang house has since submitted an appeal and this is under consideration, said the URA.

 

The Sunday Times could not reach the owner or landlord for comment.

 

Neighbours voiced concern that the unkempt condition of the house could provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes and that the makeshift kitchen on the front porch might pose a fire hazard.

 

When The Sunday Times visited the house last Friday, the kitchen, hidden from view by a large blue-striped tent cover, was littered with food remains.

 

Rubbish had collected in a dried-out pond and empty cigarette boxes and even a broken gas canister had been discarded beside a drain.

 

During the time that The Sunday Times was there, two National Environment Agency officers also dropped in to inspect the premises.

 

One tenant, a Chinese national who wanted to be known only as Mr Hua, said it was not the first time that government officers had paid a visit.

 

Just days earlier, Singapore Civil Defence Force officers had gone down to instruct the tenants to remove the gas canisters used for cooking. They now use electric steamboat pots instead.

 

Tenants said they were also unhappy with the living conditions, but complaints to the landlord had fallen on deaf ears.

 

Some said they had no choice but to stay on because their company had arranged for their accommodation there.

 

Without a proper kitchen, some were forced to cook their meals outside their bedrooms. Every day, there is a rush to use the communal bathroom on the ground floor, with waits of up to one hour not uncommon. There is another toilet on the third floor.

 

There are times when groceries go missing from the only refrigerator in the house. Some tenants also take their girlfriends to the house despite the overcrowding.

 

But there is happy news for some tenants.

 

A 40-year-old construction worker from China said his employer was relocating him and 14 of his colleagues to another place.

 

He said in Mandarin: ‘This is worse than where I live in China.’

 

Source: Straits Times

Foreign workers to be housed next to cemetery

Foreign workers to be housed next to cemetery

 

Two dormitory blocks for 12,000 workers coming up less than 20m from Lim Chu Kang cemetery

 

By Nur Dianah Suhaimi

 

THEIR neighbour is a sprawling cemetery with thousands of graves.

 

Not quite an ideal place to live in, you say?

 

But in six months’ time, about 12,000 foreign workers will have to live with that reality.

 

They will be housed in two blocks of dormitories less than 20m from the Muslim cemetery in Lim Chu Kang. The dormitories will be managed by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

 

Located at the far end of the cluster of Muslim, Christian and Chinese cemeteries, the dormitories are isolated. The nearest housing estate and shops are in Jurong West, at least 5km away.

 

At night, the cemetery area is pitch dark as there are no lamps around. As the last few cemetery visitors leave, the place becomes eerily quiet, lending it a spooky feel.

 

When told of the dormitories, one migrants’ welfare group described the location as ‘social isolation’, while half of some 20 foreign workers polled by The Sunday Times said they would rather not live so near a cemetery.

 

There are currently 30 commercially run dormitories for foreign workers, with another three under construction, including the two in Lim Chu Kang.

 

Many are tucked away in the corners of Singapore and found within industrial estates in areas like Jurong, Boon Lay and Woodlands.

 

Due to the lack of amenities in the area, the two Lim Chu Kang dormitories, called Murai One and Murai Two, will be self-contained, said the BCA.

 

The dormitories will have their own gymnasium, reading rooms, outdoor games courts, mini-mart, canteen and even a barber shop.

 

There are about 500,000 foreign workers in Singapore and more are due to arrive this year to meet the demands of the construction boom.

 

The influx has resulted in complaints from Singaporeans who feel that their estates are being ‘invaded’.

 

MPs have been fielding complaints from residents that foreign workers drink, litter and even urinate at the void decks.

 

The Straits Times Forum page regularly receives similar complaints from readers.

 

The Urban Redevelopment Authority and BCA told The Sunday Times that a key consideration when choosing dormitory sites is their location.

 

Said BCA spokesman Leong Ee Leng: ‘Residents may not be tolerant of such facilities being located too near their homes. Generally, workers’ dormitories are located away from existing residential areas.’

 

Dormitories are also not built too near polluted industrial areas which may pose a safety hazard to the foreign workers.

 

When The Sunday Times asked 20 foreign workers from India, Bangladesh and China if they would have any qualms about living beside the cemetery, half were reluctant because of superstitions associated with such a site.

 

Said a 27-year-old Bangladeshi construction worker: ‘I don’t think I will be able to sleep at night.’

 

Mr J. Huang, 40, a construction worker from China, said it was bad luck and spooky to live beside a cemetery.

 

The other 10 said they would not mind but would rather live elsewhere if given a choice.

 

A recent survey by the Singapore Contractors Association generated different results.

 

When it got wind of the Murai projects, the association surveyed 1,000 workers of various nationalities to find out if they minded living near the cemetery. Around 95 per cent said they had no issues with this.

 

Said the association’s dormitory manager Uonos Mohamed: ‘The workers don’t care what is outside as long as the living quarters are comfortable and transportation to work is available.’

 

Mr Jolovan Wham, who runs the migrants’ welfare group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, felt that housing foreign workers at the cemetery ‘is as good as social isolation’.

 

‘Even if the workers are not superstitious, it sends them a clear signal on where their social position is in our country,’ he said.

 

Mr John Gee, president of Transient Workers Count Too, an advocacy group for migrant workers, said foreign workers should not be left to live ‘in the wilderness’.

 

‘They need some place where they can have access to shops nearby and are free to step out any time.’

 

Last year, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said that housing workers on Semakau Island or Pulau Ubin was out of the question as ‘foreign workers need to have easy access to amenities’.

 

However, cinema manager Ng Hui Ying felt that even if the foreign workers are housed in a relatively remote place, they are still too close for comfort.

 

Ms Ng, 32, has seen foreign workers littering, sleeping and urinating at her void deck in Jurong West.

 

‘These workers are mobile and can visit the nearby housing estates if they want,’ she said.

 

Said a 22-year-old construction worker from India: ‘I don’t think Singaporeans like us very much. They need foreign workers to build their flats but expect us to be invisible.’

 

Source: Straits Times

Banks woo cash-rich en bloc residents

Banks woo cash-rich en bloc residents

 

Talks held at Farrer Court to promote financial services to residents after estate’s $1.34 billion collective sale

 

By Shuli Sudderuddin

 

WHERE there is money, businesses will pursue it. So it is not surprising that at least two financial players, Citibank and IPP Financial Advisers, have held talks at Farrer Court to woo residents with their services.

 

Residents netted $2.15 million on average after the estate had a collective sale in June last year. The 618-unit estate in Farrer Road was bought by developer CapitaLand for a record $1.34 billion. The original owners paid a little over $100,000 for their units 31 years ago.

 

The wooing of the Farrer Court community began four months ago with the unusual sight of Citibank officers posted in the void decks. They invited residents to two finance-related talks, complete with a free buffet dinner, in the estate’s function room.

 

When The Sunday Times attended one talk last Wednesday evening, we saw bank staff handing out booklets to more than 150 residents. The staff spoke about financial management and Citigold services targeting more affluent customers.

 

Citibank said such talks were held on an ongoing basis in private residences, including The Berth by The Cove in Sentosa Cove in January.

 

Many residents liked what they saw. As Mr Aeden Tang, 49, a bank officer, said: ‘Other banks didn’t take the trouble to reach out to us, unlike Citibank.’

 

Another resident, a 56-year-old retiree who wanted to be known only as Madam Tan, agreed: ‘It’s a win-win situation because many residents are old and can’t shop around for a good bank.’

 

Independent financial adviser IPP also held a talk there yesterday which drew about 25 people.

 

Residents said Citibank’s more aggressive tactics worked better than IPP’s. The latter had put up a banner to advertise its talk.

 

Other banks such as Standard Chartered have also reached out to those living in private residences.

 

None of them or IPP wanted to reveal how much business the talks had generated. OCBC, however, stopped such roadshows two years ago as it felt that they encroached on residents’ privacy.

 

Source: Straits Times

Getting a divorce without losing her home

Getting a divorce without losing her home

 

Recent CPF changes allow for a more eqitable distribution of the matrimonial home and let the ex-wife keep a roof over her head

 

By Lorna Tan

 

DIVORCING couples come under even greater emotional strain when they try to sort out who gets what.

 

Last October, measures were put in place that tilt the balance towards divorced women who would otherwise get little from the sale of the matrimonial home – or could even lose the roof over their heads.

 

Under the revised Central Provident Fund (CPF) rules, retirement funds will be distributed more equitably when coupples split their matrimonial property.

 

In a nutshell, the changes allow CPF assets such as property or unit trusts, or sale proceeds from these assets, to be transferred immediately to the ex-spouse’s account.

 

Most Singaporeans use CPF monies to buy the matrimonial home. In some cases, the husband is more willing to transfer it to his former wife, says lawyer Amolat Singh of Amolat Singh & Partners, especially if she can show she’s entitled to a big share.

 

CPF rules

 

The old system

 

The property could not be transferred to the wife until and unless all the monies used by her ex-husband for the mortgage had been fully reimbursed into his CPF account, together with the accrued interest.

 

Often, the parties did not have the funds to do so, so they were left with no choice but to sell the flat.

 

This could place them in financial straits, especially if they’d paid a high price for the home. Also, the spouse with the kids would probably have to find alternative accommodation.

 

This was what happened to Madam Shirley Chong (not her real name), who downgraded to a three-room flat from a four-roomer. Her two kids had to move to a new school as well.

 

The court had ruled that the flat should go to her, but she did not have the money to make the reimbursement, so the transfer could not take place. The flat was sold and a charge placed on her ex-husband’s account.

 

He is not yet 55 years old and it remains to be seen whether she will get her money when he reaches that age, as a mandatory Minimum Sum has to be retained in his CPF account.

 

The new system

 

The property can be transferred immediately from one spouse to the other even if the funds have not been fully reimbursed into the CPF account.

 

A charge is placed on the account so as to secure the refund of the CPF monies in the event of a sale.

 

If the wife sells the property, she must make a reimbursement equivalent to the total amount of the CPF monies used by her ex-husband, into her own CPF account.

 

This ensures that there is no leakage of funds from the CPF system.

 

The refund is just postponed until there is a sale, and the refund or reimbursement is made into her own account.

 

Madam Chong would be far better off under the new rules as the court could order an immediate transfer of the flat to her with or without a reimbursement.

 

Here are three real-life cases where divorced couples have benefited from the new rules.

 

Couples who have benefited

 

Case 1

 

MARRIED for six years, Mr and Mrs Victor Lee (not their real names) bought a three-room HDB flat now worth $200,000 on the resale market. He owed her $9,000 for maintenance in arrears.

 

Finally, they divided the flat in such a way that she took over his share by paying $60,000 into his CPF account. This represented the CPF monies he had withdrawn to buy the flat, plus accrued interest, less the debt of $9,000.

 

Said Ms Lie Chin Chin, the managing director of law firm Characterist: ‘Without the revised ruling, the $9,000 would have remained an outstanding debt. This ruling permits a partial refund of CPF monies into the ex-husband’s account, so Mrs Lee managed to offset the debt with the sum that was supposed to be refunded into his CPF account.’

 

When she sells the flat, however, she is required to refund any CPF monies she used for the property, plus the sum of $9,000, into her CPF account.

 

Case 2

 

AFTER 10 years of marriage, Mr and Mrs David Lim (not their real names) called it quits. At the point of divorce, she had no income and was thus unable to secure a housing loan. She had custody of a child and they needed a roof over their heads.

 

The Lims agreed that he would transfer his share in their five-room flat worth $400,000 to her without making any refunds into his CPF account. She managed to take over the flat in her sole name and continued living there with her child.

 

Without the revised CPF ruling, the division of the matrimonial flat could have posed a financial burden. The flat would have had to be sold or she would have had to take it over.

 

If the flat had been sold, most of the proceeds would have been refunded into his CPF account. There would have been little cash left over to be distributed. She would not have had the funds to buy another flat.

 

If she had taken over the flat, she would have had to get a loan so she could refund the monies into his CPF account. But she had no income, so her chances of getting a loan would have been practically non-existent.

 

Case 3

 

WHEN Mr and Mrs Joseph Ang (not their real names) bought their matrimonial home for $550,000 more than 10 years ago, they put in equal contributions using CPF monies.

 

The property is now worth $1.8 million. She paid for the renovation costs of $450,000.

 

They agreed to divide the house 80:20 in her favour. This meant he should receive $360,000.

 

But the sum due to be refunded into his CPF account was about $420,000 as the refund had to include the accrued interest on the CPF monies used. They agreed that she would take over his share by paying only $360,000 into his account.

 

Court order needed

 

Lawyers point out that the new CPF rules do not automatically apply in all divorce cases. A court order must first be made.

 

The onus is on the court to explicitly state that one spouse can transfer his or her share of the property to the other without having to refund the monies used. Only then can the transfer take place.

 

If the court does not make such an order, and it is purely the couple’s decision to buy over each other’s share of the property, the old rules still apply. The transaction must be done at fair market value and the monies must go back to the respective CPF accounts.

 

Source: Straits Times

Charmed circle

Charmed circle

 

The Circle Line will open from next year, starting with Stage Three, which links the Bishan station on the North-South Line to the Serangoon station on the North-East Line. Experts say this added accessibility will boost property values in the areas around each station. Which are some of the notable stations and residential developments to look out for now? Fiona Chan explores the area

 

Steep price jump likely

Bartley Road

 

Current prices

 

AT THE end of last year, homes in the Bartley area averaged $543 per sq ft (psf) in price.

 

While there are too few projects in the area to allow an accurate comparison of average prices over time, those projects with more transactions showed steady price rises last year.

 

These include Casa Rosa at Lorong Ong Lye and Sun Rosier at How Sun Drive, which went up in price by 20 per cent to 30 per cent last year.

 

Potential growth

 

Home prices are likely to jump by up to 30 per cent after the completion of the Circle Line MRT Station in front of the Maris Stella schools, said Mr Ku Swee Yong, the director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore.

 

He said this is one of the locations that will see the biggest rises in value as prices in the area are fairly low right now.

 

The construction around the area seems to be more extensive than usual, he noted.

 

‘I would expect a significant price jump once the station is operational. Residents will then reap the benefits after suffering years of disruption from the road works.’

 

New launches

 

A new 35-unit freehold project, Evania at Bartley Road, was recently launched right in front of the future station.

 

Prices start from more than $800,000 for a two-bedroom unit and go up to just above $1.1 million for a 3+1 bedroom unit. There is also a penthouse.

 

Richly valued haven

 

Lorong Chuan

 

Current prices

 

PRICES in the area around Lorong Chuan and Serangoon Avenue 3 climbed almost 50 per cent on average last year, according to data from Savills Singapore.

 

They are now about $710 per sq ft (psf), from $480 psf the year before. But prices vary hugely depending on the project’s age.

 

Chuan Park at Lorong Chuan, built in the mid-1980s, goes for about $600 psf. In contrast, The Chuan, a recent launch, has seen transactions go over $1,000 psf.

 

At Amaranda Gardens at Serangoon Avenue 3 and Goldenhill Park Condo at Mei Hwan Drive, both fairly new projects, units have sold for $743 to $914 psf since the year started.

 

Potential growth

 

The quiet residential area is popular with locals and expatriates alike, partly because of the schools there, which include Nanyang Junior College and St Gabriel’s Primary School.

 

Home prices, however, have already gone up significantly in the last 12 months, so not much upside is likely, said Savills’ Mr Ku Swee Yong. He expects a 10 to 15 per cent rise this year.

 

New launches

 

No future launches are known at this time. Apart from The Chuan, recent launches include two cluster housing projects, Dunsfold 18 and Milford Villas, which came on the market last year.

 

Dunsfold 18 bungalows sold for between $3 million and $3.6 million each.

 

The terrace houses at Milford Villas went for $1.2 million to $1.63 million each.

 

Moderate price increase

 

Marymount

 

Current prices

 

CONDOMINIUMS around the future Marymount MRT Station saw an average price increase of 35 per cent last year.

 

Prices rose from about $576 per sq ft (psf) to $777 psf last year, according todata from Savills Singapore.

 

Thomson 800 at Thomson Road is among the developments that command the highest prices in the area. Its most recent transactions, in October last year, went above $1,000 psf.

 

Elsewhere, at Seasons View in Pemimpin Drive and Lakeview Estate in Upper Thomson Road, homes are fetching less than $700 psf.

 

Potential growth

 

The spillover from nearby Bishan – as well as the cluster of office and industrial buildings near the new MRT station – could boost prices in the area by up to 15 per cent, said Savills.

 

The proximity to Raffles Junior College and Raffles Institution will further enhance property values near the station.

 

New launches

 

A new project is set to be built at Bishan Street 22, courtesy of Sim Lian Land, which bought the land last year from the Housing Board (HDB).

 

Last year, Sim Lian’s managing director, Mr Kuik Sing Beng, said he expected to launch a 600-unit development on the plot by this June.

 

He said it would be a 99-year leasehold, entry-level condo aimed at HDB upgraders. He estimated the homes could sell for between $700 and $750 psf.

 

Boost expected from Sports Hub

Mountbatten

 

Current prices

 

LOCATED near the former Kallang Stadium site and the interim campus for the School of the Arts, Mountbatten is an up-and-coming estate, but it has few condominiums.

 

Apartments at nearby Tanjong Rhu and Meyer Road, however, are going for between $1,000 and $1,500 per sq ft (psf) on average.

 

Potential growth

 

Property watchers said with so few private housing projects in the vicinity, it would be hard to track price growth around the station. Once the nearby Sports Hub is completed, however, property values around the area could rise by at least 10 per cent, they said.

 

New launches

 

A small project launched in the area last Saturday quietly sold more than 80 per cent of its 45 units within a week.

 

The freehold Cosmo, located 400m from the upcoming Mountbatten MRT Station, fetched average prices of $1,050 to $1,100 psf.

 

As at Friday, a few two-bedroom and duplex units were still available, priced at between $700,000 and $925,000.

 

Mr Melvin Poh, the managing director of Cosmo developer Fission Development, describes the area as ‘quite exciting’, as there are so many billion-dollar projects sprouting up nearby.

 

He expects home rentals in the area to hold steady, given its proximity to the city and a future MRT station.

 

Values to swing up on HDB turf

 

Dakota

 

Current prices

 

THE site for the upcoming Dakota MRT Station lies smack in the middle of an HDB estate, with few private homes immediately nearby.

 

The Government, though, may be trying to further develop private housing in the area, given the release of a plot at Dakota Crescent last year.

 

Few HDB resale transactions have taken place there in recent months. A single four-room flat sold for $440,000 last month.

 

Further down the Dunman Road/Tanjong Katong Road side, prices of private condominiums have shot up by some 40 per cent in the last year to an average of between $700 and $1,000 per sq ft (psf).

 

Potential growth

 

Home prices at Dakota are not expected to rise by that much, since they have already gone up a fair bit in the last year.

 

With a new station opening in the area, however, values could go up by at least 20 per cent, once construction is finished and the roads are cleaned up, said Savills Singapore‘s Mr Ku Swee Yong.

 

The presence of many schools in the area, including Broadrick Secondary School and Chung Cheng High School, should also boost demand and rentals.

 

New launches

 

Boutique developer Ho Bee, which bought the government plot released last year, has a widely anticipated project coming up on the site.

 

The new units are likely to be launched at an average of $1,000 to $1,100 psf, Ho Bee said last year.

 

About 380 homes can be built on the 99-year leasehold site.

 

Source: Straits Times

Dividing the assets

Dividing the assets

 

IN DECIDING who gets what, the law requires any division of matrimonial assets to be just and equitable.

 

Courts weigh certain factors when determining how assets should be split.

 

Matrimonial home

 

·  Contribution of each spouse: The starting point is the financial contribution that each party has made to initial payments and monthly mortgage payments.

 

Any payments made through the Central Provident Fund are also taken into account, said lawyer Amolat Singh.

 

·  Non-financial contributions: The court looks at who paid for the renovations; who bought the furniture, fittings or furnishings; who settled the monthly maintenance charges; and who paid the utility bills.

 

Also covered are expenses incurred for the welfare of the family and while looking after children or an aged or disabled family member.

 

Other assets

 

·  Efforts and contributions made by each party towards their acquisition: For example, for a business, the party making a claim must prove he or she has contributed to its success. One way is to show he or she has been involved in its administration or operations.

 

The court might not divide up these assets in the same proportion that it would the matrimonial home. For instance, the home might be split 50:50, but not the other assets.

 

·  Other factors: The court will consider the length of the marriage, the age and health of each spouse, and the couple’s standard of living during the marriage.

 

Source: Straits Times

Putting the WOW into a masterplan

Putting the WOW into a masterplan

 

A good urban plan must have impact and give a sense of excitement, says Jeffrey Ho, executive vice-president of home-grown Surbana Urban Planning Group, which has won global planning awards

 

By Jessica Cheam

 

HOME-GROWN Surbana International Consultants, which used to be part of the Housing Board (HDB), is well-known for winning architecture awards for its work in designing and building Singapore‘s public homes.

 

But elsewhere in the global arena, Surbana has also carved out a name for itself. It has fought off competition from international firms to win awards and clinch contracts to create masterplans for various projects, and even whole cities.

 

Surbana’s urban planning arm, Surbana Urban Planning Group, has traversed far and wide to draw masterplans for diverse locations including China, the Middle East, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Cambodia.

 

Some of Surbana’s masterplans to have won international awards include those for Tianjin Port Island in China, the Van Chuong New Urban Area in Vietnam and Greater Doha in Qatar.

 

Q What defines masterplanning and what do you consider when planning a new town or project?

 

A A masterplan is actually a physical plan that defines land uses in a specified area.

 

More specifically, in our context, it is called urban planning.

 

This requires a multi-disciplinary group of professionals to put together plans, perspectives, scale models, computer- generated animation and written reports.

 

There are many aspects of a site that urban planners need to understand before any masterplan can be developed. These aspects are related to existing conditions such as: land uses, transport, landscape, community values and traditions, climatic conditions, constraints, environmental quality, vibrancy and the general feel of the place as a whole.

 

Q What does the work of urban planners entail?

 

A A masterplan can take three months to a year to complete.

 

We develop the plan through site visits and meetings with the relevant authorities, local businessmen, academics, fellow consultants and stakeholders. We also review documents, statistical reports and so on.

 

We go beyond being a tourist in the country that we are planning for. We have to live and breathe the country.

 

Sometimes, I find urban planning quite intuitive. Once you understand the place, you have a knack for knowing what goes where.

 

There is a pattern and formula you can apply, but you need to adapt it to the local context. For urban planning, there is no one fixed approach.

 

Q What challenges do you face and how do you tackle these issues?

 

A Sometimes being an Asian firm is a disadvantage as we are competing with very established European firms. But this does not deter us. Rather, it sharpens our professional and negotiation skills.

 

We started small but we have tried as much as possible to get international exposure. Slowly, after doing more projects and getting a proven track record, we have started to gain a reputation. It’s a very steep learning curve but we are getting there.

 

Also, Singapore has a tight labour market, which makes it hard to find good and committed people – and cost is high.

 

Q How different is it working overseas?

 

A Language can sometimes be a big problem in places such as Vietnam and Cambodia. You need a translator, and sometimes the essence and meaning of words get lost in translation.

 

Then other things you have to consider include how to find the right place to get the information you need, understanding the political situation of various countries and being able to respond to changes in government policies. Basically, we have to be more flexible.

 

Q So what makes an iconic masterplan?

 

A A good urban plan must be what I call ‘imageable’. You have to look at it and go ‘wow’. It must have impact and make you feel a sense of excitement.

 

If it is well-composed, you also get a certain feeling of ‘comfortability’.

 

Some key aspects of an iconic plan are: attractiveness, convenience and efficiency.

 

Our projects in the Middle East are examples of mega and iconic masterplans. One of them is the Al Salam City Masterplan that we did in 2006 – it is a 2,000ha site in Umm Al Quwain – one of the emirates of the United Arab Emirates.

 

Our clients were so satisfied that they have engaged us to implement the masterplan.

 

From there, we went on to clinch the biggest masterplan project with the Qatar government: a 4,000 sq km planning of two municipalities.

 

Most of the Middle East projects are done on a clean slate with hardly any constraints. And here lies the golden opportunity for us to showcase our creativity, capabilities, knowledge and skill in delivering a project on time and meeting international standards.

 

Q What are some current global trends in urban planning?

 

A The biggest buzzword now is sustainability. Everywhere you go, people are ‘going green’. Future urban planning will place special emphasis on eco-friendliness.

 

Environmental issues have always been part of our urban- planning philosophy. But now more than ever, this needs to be expressed physically in our plans, and in the landscape too, using green spaces and green technology.

 

There are two major trends on top of this – one is the desire to create a ‘must visit’ destination that attracts investment and people.

 

The masterplan must have that ‘wow’ factor I talked about, that differentiates the location and helps it stay ahead of other developments. This is more prevalent in the Middle East.

 

In other places like China, the other trend is more apparent – that of using the masterplan to focus on solving issues such as traffic congestion, environmental pollution, housing needs, growing population and the need to conserve.

 

Q Which is your most memorable project?

 

A I have to say the next project will be the most memorable one, because you start all over again. Every project is interesting so I can’t really single out any one.

 

But for me, the greatest job satisfaction is actually the interaction with my clients. If they are really enlightened and are open to ideas, the whole development process becomes very stimulating and inspiring.

 

Source: Straits Times

How can I make uncle honour dead grandpa’s self-made will?

How can I make uncle honour dead grandpa’s self-made will?

 

Q I AM from Malaysia. My grandfather, a Malaysian, died six years ago.

 

According to his self-made will, his properties were to be distributed among his six sons. His eight daughters were not given a share in the will.

 

My grandfather signed this self-made will and so did his six sons. There were no signatures from the daughters.

 

However, immediately after my grandfather died, one of his sons, who is my third uncle, declared that he did not agree with the will. Because of his refusal to accept the will, all my grandfather’s properties are at the moment still under my grandfather’s name.

 

My third uncle is the one who manages the plantation and the company. He took all the income and did not distribute any to the shareholders.

 

My father was older than my third uncle and could have challenged my uncle, but unfortunately, he died in June last year.

 

According to my father’s will, which has been certified by a lawyer, I am the executor.

 

I want to get back what belongs to my sister, my brother and myself, and I have approached my third uncle. But he told me that, as his nephew, I have no right to ask for anything.

 

I personally feel that the only way to retrieve what is rightfully ours is to make my grandfather’s self-made will valid in the eyes of Malaysian law. But I have only a photocopy of the will and it was written in Chinese.

 

In your opinion, is the will of any use in the eyes of the law? Is there a solution to my problem?

 

 

A I MIGHT not be able to help very much. As your grandfather and father were Malaysians, Malaysian law would apply.

 

My advice as follows is based on Singapore law as I am not conversant with Malaysian law. You may wish to seek the advice of a Malaysian lawyer.

 

There are many dangers in relying on a self-made will. In this instance, it is not clear, based on what you have said, whether the will was properly executed and witnessed.

 

Also, when the six sons put their signatures on the will, it is not clear in what capacity they did so. Were they witnesses to the will? If so, the gift to them under the will is void as they were also the named beneficiaries under the will.

 

Under the Wills Act, a beneficiary of a will cannot also be a witness to it; the same applies to his or her spouse. Otherwise, the gift to that person under the will is utterly null and void. If the will includes other gifts and an appointment of executors, it is still valid where these are concerned.

 

In your grandfather’s case, if the will is void with regard to the gifts to the six sons, you will need to see whether there are other gifts stated in the will. For example, if your grandfather left the residuary estate to all his children, then all his sons and daughters would get a share.

 

If nothing else is said in the will, intestacy laws would apply. Under Singapore law, when a widower dies (assuming your grandmother died before your grandfather), all his assets will be divided among all his children. In this case, this would include the six sons and eight daughters. You and your siblings would inherit your father’s portion of your grandfather’s estate.

 

You might wish to get one or more of the other uncles or aunts to apply for letters of representation from the Malaysian court.

 

You might apply – as executor for your father’s estate – together with them.

 

You would need to produce the original will to the court when applying for the letters of representation. You would need to get a translation as well.

 

After the letters of representation have been extracted from the court, the personal representatives can request that your third uncle give an account of the income earned and expenses incurred by your grandfather’s estate during the time your uncle managed the assets.

 

Ang Kim Lan

Goodwins Law

Corporation

 

Source: Straits Times