Elements of a valid Will

If you don’t already know, Downton Abbey is a critically acclaimed British period drama television series. This series, set in the Yorkshire country estate of fictional Downton Abbey, depicts the lives of an aristocratic family, the Crawleys and their servants in the post-Edwardian era with great events in history having an effect on their lives and on the British social hierarchy.

I must admit that I’ve only managed to watch two or three episodes of this television series but I have friends who watched the shows diligently to follow the complicated lives of the Crawley family.

Just today, an article in the Moneywise website caught my eye:

Luckily, this was only a make-believe situation that you would normally find in a television show, because according to the same news article, Coulson explained that a valid Will must comply with Section 9 of the Wills Act (we are talking about the British Wills Act here) which stipulates that a will must be in writing, signed by the testator who should intend by his signature to give effect to the document, and witnessed and signed by two witnesses.

In Malaysia, we have our own Wills Act 1959 which is modelled after the British Wills Act 1837. As far as the validity of a Malaysian Will is concerned, the document must still be in writing, signed by the testator to give it effect, and witnessed and signed by two witnesses.

The Moneywise website had also revealed on 7 Oct 2013 that more than half of UK adults don’t have a will. The percentage in this part of the world would definitely be even higher. As far back as 1996, Rockwills Corporation and other smaller will-writing companies that emerged later had always suggested that the percentage in Malaysia could be as high as 90 percent.

Although the awareness for estate planning in this country has grown by leaps and bounds in the 16-plus years since then, I would surmise that the percentage of people without a Will would not have dropped much at all.

Without a Will of their own, the assets of the non-Muslims in this country will be subjected to the Distribution Act 1958 (amended 2006), which would mean that when a non-Muslim dies without making a will, his assets will be distributed under rules laid down by the government in this Distribution Act.

If you die intestate, the distribution would very much depend on how much assets you own, how they are held (movable or immovable) and the make up of your family. While you are alive, it is easy to believe that your family would not dispute their portion of the assets but really, the only way to make sure that your assets go the way you intend the family members to inherit is by making a Will. As simple as that.

Rockwills Corporation has a solution for everybody that wants to make a Will. As a Rockwills estate planner myself, I can be contacted at ssquah-@-yahoo.com (but please remove the two hyphens from my email address before you email me. Thank you.)

Finally, I just want to quote two further pieces of advice from Coulson which are also applicable here in Malaysia:

“A will not only ensures your wishes are followed but also provides clarity to those left behind, and reduces the possibility of family arguments. There is a real misunderstanding, particularly among married couples or those in a civil partnership, that everything will pass to a partner or spouse. That is not necessarily correct and can leave all sorts of difficulty for the survivor.”

“Making a will can be very emotive. It can be thought-provoking but it doesn’t have to be difficult. As long as the document complies with the formal requirements of making a valid will it could be written on a scrap of paper. However, it is very easy to make mistakes or to inadvertently write something that might cause real trouble.”

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