Dave met up with Connie in his office the next day. She was accompanied by another lady. The first thing that crossed Dave’s mind when he saw Connie was, “Lee senior really had good taste”. Connie introduced herself and her friend Liza to Dave. Then Connie said to Dave, “I think my husband’s will states very clearly that he intended to give his entire estate to me and my three children. Since I am the Executor I wish to execute it as soon as possible. Do you have a problem with that?” “Yes” was Dave’s immediate response. He then proceeded to tell Connie, “Do you know that your husband’s will is invalid because it has only one witness?” Her response was, “I was told by my friend here that this will is valid.” Dave then turned to Liza and showed her section 5(2) of the Wills Act, 1959, which states that two witnesses are required for the will to be valid. There was a minute’s silence as Liza read the section. Then, Liza looked at Connie and said, “I think the will is invalid according to this section.” Connie immediately responded, “What? I was told earlier that my husband’s will is fine and now it’s not. Are you reading it correctly, Liza?” Liza nodded. Connie at this point was looking anxious and said, “my husband’s name and my name are on the birth certificates of my children. That means we are still entitled to his estate. Is that correct, Liza?” Liza looked puzzled and Dave intervened by saying, “yes, but since your customary marriage took place before March, 1982, there is an issue.”
Dave further told Connie, “Look, I am not going to beat around the bush with you. The reason I called to meet you is to inform you first, that your husband’s will is invalid. Secondly, since he does not have any will, his estate will be distributed according to the Distribution Act, 1958 that was amended in 1997. So, you have to share your one-third entitlement with your husband’s first wife and your three children will have to share their two-thirds entitlement with five children from his first customary marriage that took place before March, 1982. Your husband’s estate is now frozen and to unlock it, we have to quickly apply for a Letter of Administration (LA). The first family have already appointed two of the children to be joint Administrators and this also requires your consent.” “What do they do?” asked Connie. “Well, they have to collect assets, settle debts and then distribute the estate to the rightful beneficiaries.” “Does that mean that the entire estate will flow into the two Administrators’ hands before distribution?” “Yes” replied Dave. Then Connie said, “I want to be one of the Administrators.” Dave’s response was “I have to speak to them on this but are you willing be one of the Guarantors or get someone else to be Guarantor of the estate if they agree to your appointment?” “Why is it necessary?” asked Connie. Dave replied, “It’s because if the Administrators run away with the estate’s money, then the Guarantors will have to compensate the beneficiaries.” “Okay, what about the other side?” “The first wife and eldest son agree to be Guarantors,” replied Dave. “In that case, I am okay with the appointment if they are okay with my request,” said Connie.
To be continued…
Peter Lee is an Associate Estate Planning Practitioner (Wills & Trust) with Rockwills International Group. He is also an Islamic Estate Planner providing Wills & Trust services for Muslims. He is based in Ipoh and can be reached at: 2nd Floor, 108 Jalan Raja Ekram (Cowan St.), 30450 Ipoh. Tel.: 012‑5078825/ 05‑2554853 or email@example.com. Website: http://www.wills-trust.com.my. (Peter Lee’s column appears monthly.)