Wills & Inheritance (Civil)
Understand about wills &inheritance for non-Muslims in Malaysia.
Understanding Wills & Inheritance
Wills & Inheritance (Civil)
If a person dies leaving a will, his or her estate will be distributed according to the terms of the will. An application to court for a grant of probate to execute the will is required.
Although a person generally has the freedom to chose his beneficiaries in his will, the Inheritance (Family Provision) Act 1971 allows certain family members such as wives, husbands, and children to apply to the courts for reasonable provision to be made for their maintenance if nothing, or an insufficient amount, has been left for them under the will.
Where the deceased leaves no will, the estate is then distributed according to the Distribution Act 1958:
If there are no surviving parents, spouses, or children, the estate will be distributed according to the following order in priority:
- Grandparents (if both are alive, in equal share);
- If no grandparents, to brothers and sisters in equal share;
- If no grandparents, no siblings, then to uncles and aunts in equal share;
- If no relatives, then to the government.
The same application applies, wherein Inheritance (Family Provision) Act 1971 allows certain family members such as wives, husbands, and children to apply to the courts for reasonable provision to be made for their maintenance if nothing, or an insufficient amount is left for them under the law which applies where the deceased does not leave a will.
Where the deceased’s estate consists of entirely or partly of immovable property (e.g. house or apartment) and does not exceed RM 600,000 in total value, there is also the option of distribution of the estate according to the Small Estates (Distribution) Act 1955. For very small estates where there is no immovable property involved, assistance for distribution may be sought from the Public Trustee’s Office (Pejabat Amanahraya).
Marriage revokes a will
If a person is single at the time of writing his or her will, this will is automatically revoked once he or she marries. However, if he or she plans to marry in the near future, he or she can still make a will now by stating in the document that it is being made in contemplation of his or her marriage to a particular person. The name of the future spouse must be clearly stated in the will.
Property of deceased spouse after conversion to Islam
Where a spouse who has converted to Islam dies before his/her non-Muslim marriage is dissolved (through divorce, for instance), the deceased spouse’s matrimonial assets shall be distributed by the civil court according to Section 51A of the LRA upon application by the surviving spouse, children and parents of the deceased spouse (known as “the interested parties”), if any.
In this situation, the court will consider the following factors when distributing the assets:
- The extent of the contributions made by the interested parties in money, property or works towards acquiring the matrimonial asset or payment of expenses for the family’s benefit.
- Any debts owing by the deceased and the interested party which were contracted for their benefit.
- The extent of the contributions to the welfare of the family by looking after the home or caring for the family.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The needs of the children, if any, of the marriage.
- The rights of the interested party or parties under the Distribution Act 1958 if the deceased had not converted to Islam.
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