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Malaysia - Wills

As much as this topic is one to avoid at all costs, there comes a time when we all must consider estate planning. The process protects our loved ones and as an expat, it is something that should be considered when you’re living away from home and leading a new life in a foreign country.

You can write your own will and it is advisable to lodge this with a lawyer. If a person in Malaysia dies without a will, then the estate in Malaysia is frozen until a Grant of Probate can unlock the estate. This can be a lengthy process and worrying for those left behind. An estate that has not been willed, is known as ‘intestate’.

It is probably wise, as an expat, to have an international lawyer to certify your will and in particular if you own property. If you’re not a Malaysian citizen when you die, you will be repatriated back to your native country, but a locked estate will still have to be dealt with. This can be avoided with a simple will that solves any problems.

The person who makes the will is called a testator. The executor is the person who will issue the contents of the will and this can be any person over the age of 21-years old, or a lawyer who represents your wishes and ensures the contents of your will are executed accordingly.

Under Malaysian law, you can appoint four executors. This is the maximum you can appoint. If any beneficiaries in your will are under the age of 21-years old, then you will need to appoint a Guardian who cares for those assets.

Executors will arrange the funeral and call in any outstanding money due to a deceased’s estate. Debts will also be paid off by the executor. The executor will also distribute assets as stated in the will and carry out any other wishes.

Advantages of Preparing a Will

As an expat, there are likely to be assets in your domicile country and your home country. In Malaysia, any assets which are unclaimed will revert to the government treasury if a will is not claimed.

Making a will ensures your family is taken care of and there is no risk of your family having to negotiate Malaysian law and the process of applying for a grant of probate.

It also keeps costs down as the process of applying for a letter of administration without a will is a costly and time consuming one; and as your estate is frozen, you will be leaving your family to bear the cost of the process. The application for administration for an unwilled estate can take two to five years in Malaysia.

Assets that Cannot Be Placed in a Will

Malaysian law states that monies held in Kumpulan Wang Simpanan Pekerja cannot be placed in a will which has already been nominated to a beneficiary. This must be dealt with separately.

Distribution of Assets in Malaysia for Those Who Die Intestate

Malaysian law states the following for distribution of assets within a family.

Family members are known as ‘issues’ and there is a set guideline within law that dictates distribution of assets:

- ¼ to spouse
- Parents ¼
- The remaining ½ is distributed evenly between both.

For a deceased with children, the following applies:

- Spouse 1/3
- Children 2/3

If there are no parents, spouse and children of the deceased, then the estate will be distributed between other family members. Then the government will take the rest.

When signing your will, it is essential you have two witnesses who will declare your wishes and that you were of sane mind at the time of writing the will. The signing should always be done in the presence of legal representation.

If a person dies ‘intestate’ and the estate is valued at less than RM 600,000.00, the government can step in. The executor will be appointed by the Amanah Raya Berhard who will administer the estate.

A will does not need to be stamped and sealed; it does however have to come under the Malaysian Wills Act to be granted as legal within Malaysia.

Where there is a joint bank account in place, it is advisable to will the bank account to the joint bank account holder.

The only time beneficiaries will need to appear in court is if the will is contested.

If you are using legal representation, then ensure your representation is covered to act under the Malaysian Will Act.

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