Part 1: “Where There’s A Will There’s A Way” 上篇:拥有遗嘱的重要性

Part 1: “Where There's A Will There's A Way”

**可以在下方查看本文章的华文版本

One of the most important things that one could do during his or her lifetime is to avoid leaving a mess behind when they passed on. It is essential for a person to have a Will to ensure his or her estate is well taken care of.  

What is a Will?

To state it simply, a Will is a written document that states the wishes of the deceased (also known as the “Testator”). It will determine how his or her estate is managed and/or distributed. For example, it may include instructions on the division of movable and immovable property or the guardianship of a child. Legally, it is defined in Section 2 of the Will Act 1959, which is reproduced below:-

a declaration intended to have legal effect of the intentions of a testator with respect to his property or other matters which he desires to be carried into effect after his death and includes a testament, a codicil and an appointment by will or by writing in the nature of a will in exercise of a power and also a disposition by will or testament of the guardianship, custody and tuition of any child”

Further, there are 4 criteria that must be fulfilled before the Will can be valid. They are:-

  • Testator must be of sound mind when signing the will;
  • Testator must be 18 years old and above;
  • The Will must be in writing;
  • The Will must be signed in the presence of two or more witnesses, where the witnesses must be above 18 years old.

Why is it so important to have a Will?

There are a good number of reasons why a person should have a Will prepared. Here are a few reasons (in no particular order):-

  • The Testator can appoint his or her Executor* of choice to administrate the estate.
  • The Testator can determine the Beneficiaries** of the estate.
  • The Testator is able to decide how his or her estate is to be distributed.
  • The Testator can choose the appropriate guardian for the child, who has not attained the age of majority.
  • The Testator’s family members will unlikely dispute on how the estate is distributed.
  • The estate of the Testator is identified and none will be left unclaimed.
  • Simpler court proceedings for the Testator’s family or Executor to obtain the power to administrate the estate.

Note:- 

* An Executor is appointed to administrate the Testator’s estate according to the Will 

**  Beneficiaries are the people or organizations that the Testator name in the Will to receive the estate. A Beneficiary should not be a witness to the will to avoid his or her entitlement to be void.

It is possible that a person has more than one Will prepared throughout his or her lifetime. Circumstances and events that happened to an individual calls for a change in the content of the Will. In such situation, the ‘old’ Will is revoked and the new Will effectively becomes the valid Will.

Although the new Will may fail to expressly state that the ‘old’ Will is revoked, section 14 of the Will Act 1959 will nonetheless declare the ‘old’ Will as such. However, the criteria for a valid Will as mentioned above needs to be fulfilled, regardless.

That being said, there are some examples of how the ‘old’ Will remains effective and valid:-

  • A Will that is drawn up during a marriage remains valid despite a divorce or separation of the couple. A new Will is necessary if the Testator’s intention has been changed.
  • If the Will is destroyed without the Testator’s intention to revoke it, the Will remains valid. (Section 14 of the Will Act 1959)

What if the deceased left without a Will?

The deceased will be called an Intestate. The distribution of the assets is governed by Section 6 of the Distribution Act 1958 and will be in the following manner:-

Surviving next of kin

Spouse

Parent(s)

Issue

a spouse and no *issue and no parent or parents

Whole estate

**x

x

no issue but a spouse and a parent or parents

1/2

1/2

x

issue but no spouse and no parent or parents

x

x

Whole estate

no spouse and no issue but a parent or parents

x

Whole estate

x

a spouse and issue but no parent or parents

1/3

x

2/3

no spouse but issue and a parent or parents

x

1/3

2/3

a spouse, issue and parent or parents

1/4

1/4

1/2

Note:-

* “issue” – children and the descendants of deceased children (section 3 of the Distribution Act 1958) 

** not entitled 

What if the Intestate died leaving no spouse, issue, parent or parents?

The estate will be distributed to the rest of his or her relatives in the following order:-

  1. Brothers and Sisters (if more than one, in equal shares)
  2. Grandparents (if more than one, in equal shares)
  3. Uncle and Aunts (if more than one, in equal shares)
  4. Great Grandparents (if more than one, in equal shares)
  5. Great Grand Uncles and Grand Aunts (if more than one, in equal shares)

If the Intestate has no surviving family members or the estate remains unclaimed, the government will have the power to take the estate. However, in order to do so, none of the above mentioned people are declared alive or they cannot be traced.

As far as the guardianship of the child, the surviving parent will have full custody of the child as provided in section 6 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1961 if no guardian has been appointed by the deceased. He or she could also be the sole guardian if the appointed person refuses to act as a joint guardian.

It is very important to highlight that the article relates to the distribution of a non-Muslim’s estate. A Muslim’s estate is governed by Faraid law and the Distribution Act 1958 is inapplicable to the said individuals. If a non-Muslim Testator converts to Islam, the Will that he or she previously possessed is automatically revoked.

In the next article, we will be discussing about how the deceased’s family members or Executor can apply to Court to administrate the estate, with or without a Will.

By: Joanne Leong & Lee Su Ting

DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information only and should not be relied upon as legal advice and/or legal opinion. Messrs Yeoh & Joanne accepts no liability for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in this article. 

 

上篇:拥有遗嘱的重要性

一个人一生中能做的最重要的事情之一就是避免在他们离世时留下一堆烂摊子。对于一个人来说,拥有一份遗嘱以确保他或她的财产得到妥善的安排是至关重要的。

什么是遗嘱?

简而言之,遗嘱是一份书面文件,陈述死者的意愿(也称为“立遗嘱人”)。它将决定如何管理和/或分配他或她的财产。例如,它可能包括关于动产和不动产分配或儿童监护权的指示。从法律上来说,《1959年遗嘱法》第2条对其进行了定义,原文转载如下:-

a declaration intended to have legal effect of the intentions of a testator with respect to his property or other matters which he desires to be carried into effect after his death and includes a testament, a codicil and an appointment by will or by writing in the nature of a will in exercise of a power and also a disposition by will or testament of the guardianship, custody and tuition of any child”.

原文翻译:

一种声明,旨在使立遗嘱人关于其财产或其他事项的意图具有法律效力,立遗嘱人希望在他死后生效,该声明包括遗嘱、附录和遗嘱性质的委任或书面委任,以行使权力,还包括遗嘱或遗嘱对任何子女的监护权、监护权和学费的处置

此外,在遗嘱生效之前,必须满足4个标准。它们是:-

  • 立遗嘱人在签署遗嘱时必须心智健全;
  • 立遗嘱人必须年满18岁或以上;
  • 遗嘱必须是书面的;
  • 遗嘱必须在两个或更多见证人面前签署,见证人必须年满18岁。

为什么拥有一份遗嘱如此重要?

一个人应该在生前准备好遗嘱的原因有很多。这里有几个原因(没有特别的排列顺序):-

  • 立遗嘱人可以指定他或她的遗嘱执行人*来管理遗产。
  • 立遗嘱人可以决定遗产的受益人**。
  • 立遗嘱人能够决定如何分配其遗产。
  • 立遗嘱人可以为未成年孩子选择并委任合适的监护人。
  • 立遗嘱人的家庭成员不太可能对遗产的分配方式有争议。
  • 立遗嘱人的遗产已经确人,不会被遗漏或无人认领。
  • 更简单的法庭程序以便立遗嘱人的家庭或遗嘱执行人申请管理遗产的权力。

:- 

*遗嘱执行人是被指定根据遗嘱管理遗嘱人的财产的人 

**受益人是遗嘱人在遗嘱中指定的接收遗产的人或组织。受益人不应成为遗嘱的见证人,以避免其受益权利无效。

一个人一生中有可能准备了不止一份遗嘱。发生在个人身上的情况和事件将令到遗嘱的内容需要被更改。在这种情况下,“旧”遗嘱可能被撤销,新遗嘱将实际上成为有效遗嘱。

尽管新遗嘱未能明确声明“旧”遗嘱已被撤销,但《1959年遗嘱法》第14条仍将宣布“旧”遗嘱将被撤销。然而,无论如何,上述有效遗嘱的标准都需要满足以便遗嘱有效。

也就是说,有一些例子可以说明“旧”遗嘱是如何保持有效的:-

  • 即使夫妻离婚或分居,在婚姻期间立的遗嘱仍然有效。如果立遗嘱人的意愿已经改变,新的遗嘱是必要的。
  • 如果遗嘱被销毁而立遗嘱人无意撤销,该遗嘱仍然有效。(《1959年遗嘱法》第14条)

如果死者没有遗嘱就离世了呢?

死者将被称为无遗嘱者。资产的分配将受《1958年分配法》第6条的管辖,并将按照以下方式分配:-

幸存亲属

配偶

父母

(其中一位)

后代

有配偶,没有后代*,没有父母

全部遗产

**x

x

没有后代,只有配偶和父母(其中一位)

1/2

1/2

x

有后代,但没有配偶,没有父母

x

x

全部遗产

没有配偶,没有后代,只有父母或其中一位

x

全部遗产

x

有配偶和后代,但没有父母

1/3

x

2/3

没有配偶,只有后代和父母(其中一位)

x

1/3

2/3

有配偶、后代和父母(其中一位)

1/4

1/4

1/2

:- 

* “后代”-儿童和已故儿童的后代(《1958年分配法》第3条) 

**无权  

如果无遗嘱者离世,没有留下配偶、后代、父母怎么办?

遗产将按以下顺序分配给他或她的其他亲属:-

  1. 兄弟姐妹(如果不止一个,平分)
  2. 祖父母(如果不止一个,平分)
  3. 叔叔和婶婶(如果不止一个,平分)
  4. 曾祖父母(如果不止一个,平分)
  5. 曾叔伯和曾叔婶(如果不止一个,平分)

如果无遗嘱者没有幸存的家庭成员或遗产无人认领,政府将有权接管遗产。然而,为了做到这一点,上述提到的人必须没有一位被宣布活着,或者他们无法被追踪。

就子女的监护权而言,如果已故父母没有指定监护人,按照《1961年婴儿监护法》第6条的规定,未亡父母将拥有对子女的完全监护权。如果被指定的人拒绝担任共同监护人,未亡父母也可以是唯一的监护人。

非常重要的是要强调,这篇文章只涉及到非穆斯林同胞的财产分配。穆斯林同胞的财产受Faraid法律管辖,《1958年分配法》不适用于穆斯林同胞。如果非穆斯林同胞立遗嘱人皈依伊斯兰教,他或她先前拥有的遗嘱将自动撤销。

在下一篇文章中,我们将讨论死者的家庭成员或遗嘱执行人如何向法院申请管理遗产,不管有或没有遗嘱的情况下。

文章来自于:

律师事务所合伙人梁佩欣律师(Joanne Leong)与李淑婷律师(Lee Su Ting) 

免责声明:本文仅供参考,不应作为法律建议和/或法律意见。Yeoh & Joanne律师事务所不会承担因依赖本文所含信息而产生的任何损失的责任。

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