KUALA LUMPUR: Over RM78 billion worth of inheritance has been waiting to be claimed by beneficiaries of deceased persons since 2022.

The sum includes RM8.8 billion in cash, said Malaysia Will and Trust Association president Datuk Chua Meng Min.

He added that despite its importance, fewer than 20% of Malaysians have a legally valid and up-to-date will.

Chua said the association is concerned over the matter as many individuals are not even aware that they are the beneficiaries of a deceased individual’s estate.

“Also, some of the beneficiaries could not be traced to hand over the inheritance, leaving the monies in the care of the government in the person of the Registrar of Unclaimed Money,” he said.

A will is a legally binding document that outlines how a person’s assets and estate will be distributed after his demise.

It also appoints an executor who will be responsible for ensuring the individual’s wishes are carried out according to the law.

Rockwills senior estate planner Chong Mok Yong said most Malaysians still hold cultural beliefs that discussing wills is taboo as it relates to death.

“The Chinese community, in particular, holds strong superstitions around wills. This superstition has resulted in people avoiding conversations about them.

“There is also a misconception that wills are only for older individuals, leading many younger Malaysians to procrastinate on writing one,” he said.

On the consequences of not having a will, Chong said without one, the assets are distributed according to the Distribution Act 1958.

This leads to fragmentation and division among surviving parents, spouses and children. It can also create a messy situation for families, especially with properties that have multiple joint owners.

“Challenges also arise when deciding the guardianship of minor children or managing business assets in the absence of a will.

“Legal processes, such as obtaining a Letter of Administration, which is costly to some, is a time-consuming and lengthy process, so it’s always best to prepare a will in advance.”

Supporting the call for Malaysians to prepare a will, Dylan Ng from SmartWills Malaysia said the consequences of not having one in place can be disastrous.

“Without clear instructions, disputes can arise among family members, leading to lengthy legal battles, strained relationships and in some cases, even financial ruin.”

Ng said the government and relevant authorities have acknowledged the issue and have taken steps to address the lack of awareness relating to will preparation.

In one such effort, Pos Malaysia Bhd extended its services in 2017 to offer will and estate administration through its partnership with the Malaysian National Cooperative Movement subsidiary, MyAngkasa Amanah Berhad.

A Pos Malaysia spokesman said: “The service is available at all branches of Pos Malaysia in Peninsular Malaysia and the cost to prepare a will starts at RM371.”

Ng said the intricacies of will writing and estate planning are not commonly taught or discussed in public forums, which has left many Malaysians in the dark about its importance.

He emphasised that individuals should consult a qualified will-writing professional or a lawyer to ensure that their will is properly drafted and legally binding.

“It is crucial to consider factors such as the appointment of guardians for dependents, the distribution of assets and tax implications when preparing a will.

“It is also important to update wills periodically to reflect any changes in personal circumstances, such as marriages, divorces, childbirth or the acquisition of new assets.”

Ng said by taking proactive steps towards proper estate planning, individuals not only protect their assets but also provide their loved ones with peace of mind during a difficult time.