Wills & Inheritance (Civil)

If a person dies leaving a will, his or her estate will be distributed according to the terms of the will. An application to court for a grant of probate to execute the will is required.

Although a person generally has the freedom to chose his beneficiaries in his will, the Inheritance (Family Provision) Act 1971 allows certain family members such as wives, husbands, and children to apply to the courts for reasonable provision to be made for their maintenance if nothing, or an insufficient amount, has been left for them under the will.

Where the deceased leaves no will

Where the deceased leaves no will, the estate is then distributed according to the Distribution Act 1958 as seen below:

Parents Spouse (husband or wife) Children
1/4 share divided equally between mother and father; if only one parent surviving then the 1/4 share to him/her 1/4 share (equally divided if more than one legal wife) 1/2 share to be equally divided among all children (male and female children have equal rights)
No parents 1/3 share 2/3 share to be equally divided
No parents No Spouse All to children to be equally divided
1/2 share 1/2 share No children
No parents All No children

If there are no surviving parents, spouses, or children, the estate will be distributed according to the following order in priority:

  1. Grandparents (if both are alive, in equal share);
  2. If no grandparents, to brothers and sisters in equal share;
  3. If no grandparents, no siblings, then to uncles and aunts in equal share;
  4. If no relatives, then to the government.

The same application applies, wherein Inheritance (Family Provision) Act 1971 allows certain family members such as wives, husbands, and children to apply to the courts for reasonable provision to be made for theie maintenance if nothing, or an insufficient amount is left for them under the law which applies where the deceased does not leave a will.

Small estates

Where the deceased’s estate consists of entirely or partly of immovable property (e.g. house or apartment) and does not exceed RM 600,000 in total value, there is also the option of distribution of the estate according to the Small Estates (Distribution) Act 1955. For very small estates where there is no immovable property involved, assistance for distribution may be sought from the Public Trustee’s Office (Pejabat Amanahraya).

Marriage revokes a will

If a person is single at the time of writing his or her will, this will is automatically revoked once he or she marries. However, if he or she plans to marry in the near future, he or she can still make a will now by stating in the document that it is being made in contemplation of his or her marriage to a particular person. The name of the future spouse must be clearly stated in the will.