What happens if you die without a will in Malaysia?

What happens if a person passes away without a will?

What happens if you die without a will in Malaysia?

In Malaysia, if a person dies without a will is called dying ‘intestate’. In an intestate succession, the Distribution Act 1958 will determine how the person’s estate will be distributed. This Act applies only to non-Muslims in Malaysia. For Muslims and natives of Sabah, it would be governed under different sets of laws.

When someone passes away without a will, it may lead to various uncertainties about what will happen to our money and belongings upon death. As your intentions are unknown during your time of death, family members are also in an emotional and pressured situation while dealing with their loss.

Assets of various types, such as bank accounts or properties, would be frozen from any possible transfers. A further complication is the timing of the distribution of assets may take up to 2 to 5 years to complete. This affects the livelihood of possible dependents such as the surviving spouse, parents and even minor children.

Will Writing Statistics in Malaysia

According to statistics from TheStar.com.my (source) date June 2019, only 2 million, or about 28% of the total 7 million people of working adults, have a will. It is reported that it is a significant difference from other countries such as the US and the UK, with an average of 40% of the adult population having a will.

So, what is Distribution Act 1958?

The Distribution Act 1958 states that when a person passes away intestate, the property he leaves behind will be distributed among his family members. The same law applies to male and female deceased persons.

Distribution Act 1958

Remaining Family MembersParents entitled toSpouse entitled toIssue entitled to
Parents, issue and spouse1/41/41/2
Spouse and issue, but no parents1/32/3
Parents and issue, but no spouse1/32/3
Parents and spouse, but no issue1/21/2
Parents only, no spouse nor issueWhole Estate
Spouse only, no parents nor issueWhole Estate
Issue only, no spouse nor parentsWhole Estate

However, if a person dies leaving no parents, spouse or issue (children), his estate will go to the following persons in order of priority:

  1. his brothers and sisters
  2. his grandparents
  3. his uncles and aunts
  4. his great grandparents
  5. his great-granduncle and grandaunts

What is the process if you die without a Will?

Below list a brief of processes if someone were to pass away without a Will and their deceased’s family members would go through a probate process until the assets are distributed.

Firstly, your assets are frozen, and next-of-kin must apply for Letters of Administration

When someone dies, their assets are frozen and cannot be accessed until the probate process is complete. The will is sent to the court, and the next of kin must apply for a grant of probate to sell the property or access the deceased’s bank accounts. Insurance policies or EPF accounts may also be affected if nominations are not set within the policies or accounts.

Applying for Letters of Administration from Court

In order to unfreeze the assets, the next-of-kin must apply for Letters of Administration. The court will appoint the administrator and be responsible for managing the estate. Since the person dies without a will, the next of kin must file a petition with the court to obtain a grant of Letters of Administration. Once granted, the administrator of the estate will be able to manage and distribute the estate.

Administrator to pay off debts and distribute according to the Distribution Act 1958

If applicable, the administrator will use the assets to pay off any debts. After all, debts are cleared, the Administrator would then distribute the assets amongst their next of kin by order of precedence set out in the Act. In general, if the deceased person does not have any family members and does not have a will, their assets will go to the following persons in order of priority: brothers and sisters, grandparents, uncles and aunts, great-grandparents, great-granduncle and grandaunts and lastly, our Malaysian Government.

Why should you write a Will?

If the Distribution Act 1958 does not favour your wishes on how you want to distribute your estate and you want your beneficiary to inherit without complications, writing a will would be the best way to manage your estate distribution. Writing a Will may seem tedious, but it is quick, simple and easy with Rockwills. It’s an essential requirement of an estate planning process. Find out more in this in-depth article on Will Writing.

Get Advice for your Will Writing

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