Ex-Wife Has To Return CPF Funds To Man’s Sister, Current Wife And Son Cannot Inherit Funds Too
When a man passes away, his wife and children will usually inherit his estate — all the money and property he had under his name.
In this case, however, Mr. Samsudin Mohamed’s ex-wife, Mdm Mamuah Naim, was the one who could access his Central Provident Funds (CPF) funds, even though her nominee status should have been voided as Mr. Samsudin had remarried overseas.
This case took an unexpected twist when the court was told that the widow and his son were also ineligible to inherit his estate — because the marriage was considered invalid under Islamic law, according to a report by The Straits Times.
Ex-wife received more than $575k
Mr. Samsudin had nominated Mdm Mamuah Naim, his then-wife, as the original beneficiary in 1985. They later divorced in 1989, but he did not remove her beneficiary status with CPF.
After 2 weeks of her ex-husband’s passing in 2015, Mdm Mamuah Naim was alerted of her beneficiary status. By Mar 2016, she had withdrawn most of the $575,735.
Sister says ex-wife is not a beneficiary
Mdm Hamidah Hasif, Mr. Samsudin’s sister, assumed the role of administrator of Mr. Samsudin’s estate. She pointed out that Mdm Mamuah’s nomination as the beneficiary should have been revoked as Mr. Samsudin had remarried.
Thus, the court ruled that Mdm Mamuah must return all of the funds to Mdm Hamidah.
Last month, the law firm representing Mdm Mamuah was ordered to return the cost of legal fees that Mdm Hamidah had paid using the CPF funds.
Apart from returning the money, Mdm Mamuah would have to pay $6,000 of legal costs to Mdm Hamidah.
CPF has received $70,000 so far, which includes the $30,000 Mdm Mamuah had used to pay the law firm representing her.
Ex-wife claims she didn’t know of invalid status
Mdm Mamuah claimed she did not know of Mr. Samsudin’s remarriage in Canada as they did not keep in contact.
Since he did not remove her nomination, she had assumed she was eligible to receive the funds. Through her lawyer, she added that CPF only knew of his remarriage after the funds were given to her.
Second wife also not eligible as she had left the faith
Since Mr. Samsudin’s second marriage was valid in Canada, the court ordered Mr. Samsudin’s widow and son to be defendants in the case.
However, more complications arose due to the nature of the marriage. Mr. Samsudin and his second wife, Ms. Leonisa Acha Vallecera, had married under Islamic law.
But because Ms. Leonisa had left the Muslim faith, her marriage is deemed invalid, according to the ruling of the legal committee at the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. While the ruling has no binding effect, they are considered expert opinions on the matter.
This means that under Islamic law, their son is considered illegitimate. As such, both Ms. Leonisa and her son could not inherit Mr. Samsudin’s estate.
Mdm Hamidah asserted that the actual beneficiaries are his mother and 5 siblings under the Muslim Inheritance Law.
Unusual case in Singapore
While this case is an unusual one, it highlights the fundamental fact that if a CPF nomination is not made, the funds will be distributed according to the Administration of Muslim Law for Muslims and the Intestate Succession Act for non-Muslims.
While the older generation frown upon making a will in advance, it is best to do so even if you are not suffering from any illness. Having a clear will can prevent potential disputes and misunderstandings about “who gets what?”. You must still make a nomination for CPF funds, though.
For more information on what goes on in the making of a will, click here.
Featured image adapted from Money Sense.