Mini-Guide to How Inheritance Works in Malaysia
Inheritance in Malaysia usually works in a very straightforward way. When it comes to inheritance, things will be easier if it involves a will. It can also be easier if your accounts have named beneficiaries in them.
However, there are times when inheritance is not as straightforward as it seems. There are certain facets that make the situation complicated.
In this article, we will try to cover as much as possible regarding inheritance in Malaysia. I will try to make it as simple for all of you to understand how it works too.
Having a Will is Important
Let’s establish the basics first. If you are still alive, it’s better if you create a will and legalize it with the help of a certified lawyer. There are many kinds of wills. So make sure you do all the necessary research on the different kinds of wills available to you.
Since there are so many kinds of wills available to you, you do not need to have all of them. Most times, people just need a simple and straightforward will. In a simple and straightforward will contains items such as:
- Named beneficiaries
- Percentage of monies or a property that is going to the named beneficiaries
- Having all your properties, monies, and assets listed in this will
In a simple will, it’s best that you update it periodically. Review it to see if you have any new properties and beneficiaries to add to this will. Even if let’s say you do not have much money (less than rm10,000 to your name), just make one anyway. Now you may not have a lot of money and properties to your name. However in the future, if you ever amassed a whole new amount of wealth, then yes an updated will can be useful.
There are also comprehensive wills for different purposes. Like for example, there can be living wills, wills for survivorship in properties, and whatnot. Comprehensive will is not for everybody. It’s for people who have “more things to their names”, therefore these kinds of wills are for these kinds of people.
What If You Don’t Have a Will?
If you do not have a will, then things will be a bit harder for you. However, it’s not impossible to have the inheritance groundwork laid down and be distributed to the next-of-kin.
If there isn’t a will, then you will have a lot of problems and disputes with your family members when it comes to who gets what.
These are what you should look into if you are met with any inheritance disputes.
1. Refer to Malaysia Distribution Act 1958
This is the most common inheritance law followed and practiced by Malaysians if there is no valid will. We will go out on a leg and arm here to include the Inheritance (Family Provision) Act 1971. Both the Distribution Act and the Inheritance Act will lay out the conditions of inheritance among the deceased’s next-of-kin.
There is useful information in the Distribution Act 1958 saying how much each living next-of-kin will get from your assets and properties when you have passed away. It includes information such as the percentage % each surviving family member will get. If you have no spouse and no kids, your properties will go to your siblings and parents. It includes a lot of useful information.
However, don’t forget that before you receive the assets, monies, etc., the executor will need to find out all the properties and monies the deceased has left behind. The length of time for the executor to locate all assets and properties can take anywhere from a few months to many years.
2. Legitimate children
This is a complicated matter when it comes to inheritance and inheritance laws in Malaysia. Sometimes you have divorced parents or a deceased parent who has biological kids. These biological kids may or may not have a share in inheritance when it comes to those kinds of things. It all depends on the scenario.
For example, the father has another child with his mistress. Something happened to the father and he passed away. The father did not leave behind a will for any of his family members. If this is the case, can the child bear out of wedlock inherit anything from his deceased dad? Since that the father is his biological father, but not the mother his biological dad was married to.
Or for example, the mother has 2 kids from her first marriage. Then she re-married a new man. With the new husband, she can have a will made for any kids between her and her new husband. But what about the 2 kids she had with her previous husband? If she passes away and does not leave any wills behind, will her 2 kids from her previous marriage be entitled to any of the inheritance from her new husband?
It really all depends on the scenario. There is no 1 straight line or 1 rule that’s “one size fits all”. Lawyers and executioners will have to do their jobs and find out if these kids from previous marriages or out of wedlock are entitled to any inheritance if there is no will.
3. Non-family and non-relative persons named in your will
Here’s the thing about wills – even when you have written one and legalized it. Your family members can still contest and question its contents. It can be a lot of scenarios. Even if you have finalized your final will and legalized it, it does not mean your immediate family members can accept it.
For example, in your will (and any other accounts and assets), you have listed a mistress, a close friend, a society, etc., as the beneficiary. However, even though these people or societies are more than happy to have a cut in your assets, it does not mean they will get it in the end.
Your family members can take your will to and have it contested and challenged. If they win the court case, whatever you have promised your friend/mistress/organization can be reverted. But this is only when your family has a very strong and solid case to it. If not, then whoever non-blood-related people are named in your will as beneficiary will get the assets you have listed for them.
4. No non-family and non-relative persons named in your will
Here’s the thing with having wills. Even if you did not name an organization, a mistress, or a close friend in your will, your immediate family members can still find issues with it. The biggest reason why they are unhappy with the inheritance shares is that they don’t agree with how it’s split.
Some people will, for example, give their spouse 1/3 of their assets, 1/3 be given to the first child, and the final 1/3 to their youngest child. Some family members think this is “unfair”. They may think maybe as parents they should get more, whereas the kids get less.
Or for some people, they think that the sons should get more because sons are “more important than daughters”, right? Or vice versa because girls don’t earn as much as their male counterparts so they should get more.
Again this is another family dispute that you will have to deal with before and after you have passed away. You’ll be unable to please anyone and everyone. So that means you will need to be extra firm in your final decisions.
There are many possibilities for family disputes over inheritance. You cannot solve all of them but it’s worth being transparent and open about who gets what after you have passed away.