Recently, a businessman travelled to Kuala Lumpur for a meeting. After that meeting and lunch with his associates, all of them contracted Covid-19. All his friends recovered but unfortunately, he died when this deadly virus strikes like lightning. It was later discovered that he died without a will. Apparently, he was living separately from his wife and minor child. His parents and siblings could not confirm whether he divorced his wife or not.
His parents were trying to contact his estranged wife to inquire about the estate of their son because some of the properties jointly owned by them and their son are actually owned by them. Such circumstances of joint names in many cases may be due to application for a bank loan.
Presuming he was separated from his estranged wife but not divorced, his lawful beneficiaries will be his estranged wife, both his parents, and his minor child. His wife would be entitled to ¼, whereas his parents will be entitled jointly to ¼ and the 2/4 of his estate will be inherited by his minor child. This is in accordance with the Distribution Act, 1958 (amended in1997). However, if he divorced his wife, his child will inherit 2/3 of his estate and his parents will be entitled to 1/3 equally.
Either way, application for Letter of Administration (L.A.) will be a problem. Applying for L.A. is the first step for the lawful beneficiaries to unlocked the estate when the deceased died intestate (Without a will).
To apply for the L.A., the lawful beneficiaries would have to appoint Administrator/s to administer the estate. In the case of the first scenario where the couple is separated, the wife, parents, and minor child must agree and consent to the appointment of Administator/s. In the case of the second scenario where the couple are divorced, the minor child and parents will be deciding on the appointment of Administrator/s. However, if the child is a minor, then the person making the decision for the child will be the guardian and it would most likely be the child’s mother if the child is under her custody.If the estranged wife or ex-wife of the deceased could not be located,then it will be near to impossible to even kick-start the application for L.A.
Instead of leaving it to fate, why not take the first step to think and take action on your estate distribution through a will even though you may not face the above situation. At least it gives you and your family a peace of mind if anything were to happen to you suddenly during this difficult time of the pandemic.
All you need to do is to decide on who would you want to appoint as your Executors/Trustees as these are the key people who will be executing your estate. The choice of this appointment depends on their trustworthiness and accountability. However, if you have difficulties in determining who is the right choice especially when you have a problem like the above case, then it would be advisable and prudent to appoint a licensed trust company in Malaysia specializing in estate administration to act as your Executor/Trustee.
If you have minor children who are below 21 years old, then you have to discuss and think of a suitable person of your choice to be appointed as Guardian just in case you and your spouse or ex-spouse passed away.
After deciding on a suitable person, it is always advisable to speak to them and obtained their consent to act as guardian because it is a heavy responsibility for them.
Once you have decided on the appointment of Executors/Trustee and Guardian, you can then specify all the assets which you want to distribute and in the case illustrated above, set up a Testamentary Trust in your will so that the minor child can receive the distribution progressively in the absence of both the parents.
By having the above planning in place, then at least your family could expedite the process of unlocking your estate in the event of death through a Grant of Probate and because of this would you sense the urgency of Will when covid-19 strikes like lightning?
For more information or for any inquiries you may contact me (Peter Lee) at :
Tel : 012-5078825 / 05-2554853
Address: No.108(2nd Floor) Jalan Raja Ekram, 30450 Ipoh, Perak.