Peter Lee is a man with a mission. He wants to see more Malaysians write their wills to protect their families who are left behind. He cites data that shows that in Malaysia alone, more than RM40 billion of cash and non-cash assets are left by the dead which are not claimed by their heirs. Of this, land and property account for about RM38 billion, RM1.5 billion is with the Registrar of Unclaimed Monies (savings accounts and fixed deposits in banks and financial institutions) and more than 70 million has been left in the Employees Provident Fund. In addition, there are also a million land titles still in the names of the deceased. The only way to stop the increasing amount of unclaimed cash and non-cash assets is to make a will, claims Peter.
Amidst the many uncertainties in life, death is something that nobody can escape. As the saying goes, “Where there’s life, there’s death.” In this day and age, death is no longer a taboo topic. Morbid as it may seem, these days, people make plans for their eventual death to ease the responsibility for their loved ones after they are gone.
But how many of us plan for the smooth distribution of wealth to our beneficiaries upon our demise? To date, unclaimed monies and frozen assets in Malaysia amount to over RM60 billion. Procrastination is one of the main reasons why most of us still do not have a will drawn up.
Ipoh Echo spoke to Peter Lee, an estate planner of Rockwills in Ipoh, about will and estate planning. Peter has more than ten years of experience in this field.
Dying Intestate or Dying Without a Will
Highlighting the importance of choosing a suitable Executor/Trustee with my article entitle ‘Asking the python to feed the chicken’.
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Written by Peter Lee.
I think most of us would have noticed that one of the news which made headlines recently was the staggering amount of more than RM 5 billion which remains unclaimed by Malaysians. It was reported that these unclaimed money are from inactive bank accounts, unclaimed fixed deposits that have expired, insurance payouts and interest. Insurance itself has more than RM 327 million which is due to beneficiaries of Life Insurance policies.
There is a misconception that only the wealthy need to have a will drawn up. In estate planning, the size of it is immaterial, unless one totally has nothing. The average adult would have at least some savings in the bank, jewellery, a car, a house, shares in their business and also some small investments such as stocks and unit trusts.
As such, it is better to plan the distribution of these in the will for assets to be passed down smoothly to the next of kin. But in cases of special needs of dependents and minors, it is best to set up a living trust (inter vivos).
While the appointed executor is usually the spouse or sibling, it is advisable to appoint a licensed corporate trustee because it is perpetual, accountable, transparent and has the expertise in the execution of wills. A corporate trustee would be the custodian of all the assets of the estate and would perform the duties of an executor in accordance with the law and wishes of the testator as stated in the will. The appointment of a corporate trustee provides certainty.
On the other hand, an individual is mortal, may not know what to do and may not have the time or the energy to carry out his role. It is a tedious task and many are not aware of their responsibilities. Learning the process of will execution along the way, they take more time than necessary in getting the will executed and wealth distributed.
Under the law, only one executor is required to be appointed in the will. However, through experience, Peter Lee advises that at least two be appointed, arranged according to priority, in the event that the first executor is unwilling or unable to carry out the duties. A testator is allowed to appoint up to four executors.
For the substitute executors of separate wills of a husband and wife, it would be better to have the same person appointed, in the event of a common disaster. If different people were appointed, these two parties would have to work together and at the same pace to execute the two wills.
The executor is someone who is at least 21 years of age and trustworthy in the eyes of the testator. His (or her) role would be to apply for the Grant of Probate from the High Court in the event of the testator’s death. He (or she) may need to engage a lawyer to do so.