What Happens if you died without a will in Malaysia?

In Malaysia, the topic of will writing often carries a sense of discomfort, yet its significance cannot be overstated. A will serves as a vital legal document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets after your passing. This article aims to shed light on the importance of having a will in Malaysia and the consequences of not having one in place.

Why Do I Need a Will?

A will is indispensable for individuals with assets and loved ones to protect. It grants you control over asset distribution, preventing potential disputes among family members and streamlining the probate process. By having a will, you can minimize administrative costs and address unique circumstances, such as providing for stepchildren or dependents with special needs. Without a will, assets may be distributed according to intestacy laws, leading to uncertainties and potential disputes. Having a will ensures your wishes are carried out and provides peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

What Happens to Your Wealth and Assets if You Died Without A Will?

When someone passes away without leaving a will in Malaysia, their estate becomes subject to intestacy laws, which dictate how assets are distributed and creditors are satisfied. This encompasses all assets such as savings in bank accounts, properties, and other belongings owned at the time of death. However, it’s important to note that assets like EPF monies and insurance policies are governed by separate laws and are not included in the distribution under intestacy laws.

Understanding Intestacy Law:

Intestacy Law refers to the legal framework governing the distribution of assets and satisfaction of debts when an individual passes away without a will. Key terms related to this include:

  • Administrator: An individual appointed by the family or court to administer the estate of the deceased in the absence of a will.
  • Sureties: Guarantors who may be required to ensure proper asset distribution and accountability.
  • Executor/Wasi: A person designated in a will to carry out its terms.
  • Movable Assets: Belongings such as vehicles, jewelry, and electronic devices.
  • Immovable Assets: Real estate properties like houses and lands.
  • Quranic Heirs: Individuals entitled to inherit according to Islamic law.
  • Beneficiaries: Descendants who receive inheritance.
  • Issues: Typically refers to children and descendants in legal contexts.

What is the law of inheritance in Islam? 

In Islamic law, the process of inheritance unfolds as follows:

  1. Your estates will continue to be intestate until the case is settled.
  2. Your family must apply for the Faraid Certificate from the Shariah Court, which will contain information on the value of the estate, the names of the eligible beneficiaries, and the proportions of each beneficiary. This process usually takes 5 working days.
  3. All the Quranic Heirs (Ashabul Furud) must have a mutual agreement to choose the same Administrator. It needs to be in written form and verified by the Magistrate / Commissioner for Oaths.
  4. The wealth will be distributed based on Shariah Law. The process of wealth distribution is the same as when you have a legal Wasiat (equivalent to will). The priority will be given to the provisions of your funeral expenses followed by the payment of outstanding debts including zakat, uncompleted hajj, and Nazar (solemn pledge).
  5. If the beneficiaries are below 18 years old or are disabled, their share will be deposited in the Trust Account at AmanahRaya and may be claimed when they reach the age of 18 or the age agreed in the Deed of Trust.
  6. If you don’t have a surviving family member and none is claiming your estates, it will all be given to the Baitumal (Islamic financial institute).
  7. Before distributing your wealth, your beneficiaries will have to apply to the High Court for Letters of Administration (LA). Depending on the estate’s or asset ’s value, they can also apply for the LA at the District Land Administrator office or Amanah Rakyat Berhad. On top of that, the Administrator will need to find 2 sureties who can guarantee the same value of assets as yours. This generally takes about 6 to 9 months.
  8. These sureties have a duty to ensure that your estates will be properly distributed and the accounts properly rendered. In case the administrator runs away with your monies, the sureties will be required to pay the lost amount to the rightful beneficiaries.
  9. Sureties are not required if the gross value of your estates is RM600,000 and lower. Your wealth will be distributed by:

   – Movable assets: AmanahRaya Berhad will use section 17 of the Public Trust Corporation Act 1995 to determine who can administer the estates without the need for guarantors.

  – Immovable assets: District Land Administrator will use the Small Estate Distribution Act 1955 to issue a distribution order, hence, no guarantors are needed for this instance.

  1. Additionally, no guarantors are needed if a trust corporation is nominated as the administrator/if the administrator is the sole beneficiary.

What happens if a non-Muslim property owner dies without a will in Malaysia?

When an individual who is not of the Muslim faith passes away without a will in Malaysia, the following steps are typically observed:

  1. Your estates will be put on hold until the matter is resolved.
  2. Your surviving family members must collectively nominate an Administrator. This decision necessitates agreement from all concerned family members, achieved by signing the Renunciation of Administration letter, which is then witnessed by the Magistrate or Commissioner for Oaths.
  3. The process of distributing wealth mirrors that of a valid will. Priority is accorded to covering funeral expenses, followed by settling outstanding debts. Subsequently, the remaining estate(s) are allocated to beneficiaries based on the Distribution Act 1958 (amended in 1997) for West Malaysia and Sarawak, while Sabah adheres to the Intestate Succession Ordinance 1968.
  4. The court may appoint a guardian for any minors (individuals under 18 years old) among the deceased’s heirs. This appointment might not align with the preferences of the deceased.
  5. Before the assets can be distributed, beneficiaries must apply for Letters of Administration. Depending on the value of the assets, this application can be made at either the District Land Administrator office or AmanahRaya Berhad. Additionally, the administrator must secure two guarantors who can vouch for the value of the assets, a process that typically spans 6-9 months.
  6. These guarantors are responsible for ensuring that the estate(s) are allocated appropriately and that proper records are maintained. In the event of theft, these guarantors are liable to reimburse any losses incurred.
  7. Guarantors are unnecessary if the total value of the assets is below RM600k. In such cases, matters may be handled by the public administrator, which can extend the process to up to 3 years.

Your wealth will be distributed by:

  – Movable assets: AmanahRaya Berhad administers under section 17 of the Public Trust Corporation Act 1995 without requiring guarantors.

   – Immovable assets: The District Land Administrator issues a distribution order under the Small Estate (Distribution) Act 1955, eliminating the need for guarantors.

It’s important to note that this process can extend over 2-5 years or more. In cases of joint ownership, agreements must be reached regarding the fate of the property.


Do I Need a Will if I Don’t Own Anything?

died without a will

Even if your assets are limited, having a will remains crucial for several reasons. It enables you to designate guardians for any minor children, outline specific funeral arrangements, and express preferences regarding personal belongings. Furthermore, a will acts as a proactive measure to prevent potential complications and uncertainties for your loved ones in the event of your passing.


What About Estate Planning?


Estate planning extends beyond just drafting a will; it involves developing a comprehensive strategy for managing and distributing assets both during your lifetime and after your passing. Through estate planning, individuals can address important tax considerations, establish trusts to protect assets, and create enduring powers of attorney to ensure their financial affairs are managed according to their wishes. By engaging in estate planning, you can proactively safeguard your legacy and provide for your loved ones according to your intentions.

In conclusion, having a will in Malaysia is paramount for effective estate planning. It offers clarity, control, and peace of mind, ensuring your wishes are fulfilled and your legacy is safeguarded. By understanding the legal implications of intestacy and drafting a will, you can protect your loved ones and assets.

Consult with us today to learn more about the benefits of having a will and how to begin the process. Take proactive steps towards estate planning to ensure your wishes are carried out according to your intentions.