DO YOU know that in 2006, Amanah Raya Berhad (ARB), as the public trustee and custodian, admitted to having a RM471mil inheritance problem? But rest assured, ARB was not at fault. There was no dereliction of duty here.
Instead, the finger pointed fully and squarely at the rightful heirs of money and property left behind by the dead who did not leave a will. Worse, complications had set in when the heirs themselves died without writing their own wills.
According to a story in New Straits Times (Aug 28, 2006), the majority of inheritance cases were not resolved because family members either could not care about sorting out the estate of the deceased or could not agree on the distribution and fought over the assets.
When the original beneficiaries could not be bothered, said ARB chairman Datuk Dusuki Ahmad, the case would become trickier when these original beneficiaries died and the assets were then to be distributed to the next generation of descendants.
“The descendants may not be able to accept the terms of distribution among themselves and this is usually the case when the assets which were considered of little value two or three generations back had now become more valuable with the passing of years,” he said.
Many of the unresolved cases involved Muslims who chose not to write a will because they depended on the Faraid system to distribute and manage their assets after death.
The newspaper article went on to say that although the Faraid system was very systematic in spelling out how the estate should be distributed exactly to living descendants, it did not cover adopted children.
Without a wasiat (will), adopted children would get nothing. However, with a wasiat, the deceased could plan to give one-third of his estate to them.
ARB’s senior marketing and product development manager, Azliah Suhod, said: “Sadly, most people still lack an understanding of the importance of estate administration. But non-Muslims are more aware of the need for a will and often ensure fair and satisfactory distribution of their assets.”
Note: Some of the unresolved estates go as far back as 1921 when the Department of Public Trustee and Official Administrator was first established by the British colonial administration. This department later became ARB. The RM471mil from 21,000 unresolved inheritance cases consisted of RM141mil cash and some RM330mil non-cash assets.
What a waste. If only they had written a will!
Retiree Quah Seng Sun is a personal estate planner.