I think you would agree with me if I say Covid – 19 or Coronavirus is the most scariest word in the whole world at the moment . While we are grounded in our homes with our family under the lockdown period, I believed all of us are bombarded with news on our television set , daily whatsapp messages and Facebook on the infected and death cases in Malaysia and the rest of world. I won’t be surprised after this lockdown period is lifted, most of us will breathe a sigh of relief that we and our loved ones did not fall victim to Covid-19. The last lockdown or curfew which I remember was the deadly riots in 13th May, 1969 when I was only 3 years old. All I could vaguely remember was my parents telling me that everyone has to stay home.
But this time, it is a lockdown that caused us fear, anxiety and uncertainty due to a deadly virus in which the whole world are still looking for a vaccine. It also shows how fragile humans are and how it can humbled by an invisible virus. As I follow the sequence of daily events through the news , we Malaysians have to really salute the frontliners especially the doctors, nurses, surveillance and enforcement teams, researches, contact tracers, clinic workers and hospital staff . They are our heroes and they put themselves at risk every day for all of us. It is really sad to see all of these heroes have to be separated from their families to combat this deadly virus and save lives. According to one senior management staff in one of badly affected hospitals, the entire medical service is stretched to the limit due to long working hours because the hospitals are under staff. In addition, two senior doctors have no choice but write an open letter to the authorities to expedite their medical supplies.
As a Malaysian and always a Malaysian, it is disheartening to see my country known as the economic powerhouse or the Tiger of Asia at one time is short of the most basic essential medical supplies such as surgical caps, face shields, gloves, gowns, boot covers and N95 masks all of which are the most important personal protective equipment (PPE) that protects the lives of the frontliners. Instead, they have to turn to plastic bags and cling wraps as their protective gear. I really pray and hope this serious problem of supplies could be resolved soon.
When you read about the stories of frontliners , does it occur to us that how lucky the rest of us are when we are only asked by the government to stay at home to contain the spread of this virus. Compare to the frontliners, most of us I presumed would spent most of our time in the comfort of our homes engrossed with our handphones. I must confessed that I am also one of them. You would noticed that during this lockdown period, so many people post their activities on facebook keeping themselves occupied. Activities such as Yoga in the house, cooking their favourite food , baking cakes, flower arrangement, gardening and teleconferencing seems to be very popular. But one activity which amused me most is someone who post on their facebook what they eat for breakfast in front of the television and followed by more eating every other hour. This gives me the impression that they spent the whole day eating.
During this lockdown, the government have instructed banks to give moratorium of six months for loans and financing, whereas insurance companies have offered deferment of insurance premiums for three months provided certain conditions are fulfilled. As the major financial concerns are now in abeyance and we are all in a lockdown, it is the right time to seriously think about the distribution of wealth.
Just imagine if a person has contracted coronavirus and in critical stage, it would be impossible for him to think of doing his will as he would be fighting for his own life. Even if he is in quarantine and in stable condition , it is not possible for him to do his will because he would be under medication that may affect his mental capacity and I can’t think of anyone who would dare to approach him to provide will-writing services. Furthermore, it is not possible to get two independent witnesses. The only people that he would be seeing are the doctors and nurses who would be extremely busy saving lives and in need of rest before they start work again.
Since we have time on our hands and not infected with Covid-19, , let’s spend some time to prepare your will.
To prepare your will, you should firstly get in touch with a professional estate planner who will ask you to look into :-
1) Who do think has the experience and knowledge what is takes to be an executor? It is not enough just to trust the person because without the experience and knowledge, the executor would cause delay and may even wrongly distribute assets to your beneficiaries or even not carry out your instructions in your will. In fact, it would be prudent to appoint a licensed trust company in Malaysia specializing in estate administration to act as your executor.
2) If you have children below the age of 21, there is a need to appoint a guardian for them. This is the best time to speak to that person who would play an important role to provide care for your children. At the same time do think of how much to pay him/her on a monthly basis to care for your child. This person would normally be a family member and close to the children.
Once you have determined who would be your of executor and guardian, you can now decide how your assets to be distributed to your loved ones especially to your minor children. Such distribution can be in two tiers. One is to distribute to your spouse first. It is important for your spouse to have a will as well to probably mirror your distribution. However, if both passed away, then distribute to your children. If they are minors, then your assets have to be placed in a Trust managed and distribute to the beneficiaries progressively by the Trustees. What have been stated above is just an example. There are many ways to distribute your assets in your will.
List down your thoughts and you can start contacting friends for reference or search the internet for a professional estate planner in Malaysia to begin discussion with you.
I know that it is not easy for all of us to think of such matters when we are all worried about our businesses and jobs at the moment. But it would be worse off if we don’t plan something for our family when we are gone because all of our distribution of assets especially cash to them will be delayed in times like this. Interestingly, while America is being hit by Covid-19, Americans are scrambling to do their wills. According to a Boston base company, they have seen a 143% week-over-week increase in people doing their wills online. But a according to lawyer , the DIY wills can be invalid if its not drawn up and signed properly without meeting the requirements of the law. This is a message to all of us not to procrastinate.
In the meantime, it is also time for us to check our status with the Accountant General Department of Malaysia or “eGUMIS” portal on whether we are on the list of unclaimed money because there are roughly RM 10 billion in cash waiting to be claimed as reported by the Ministry of Finance recently. Before I signed off, I would like to pray for all Malaysians to stay strong , stay healthy , stay home and we will get through this tough times together.