No legal Right of Inheritance for “Second Wives” of Malaysian Non-Muslims

I have been reading the series ,”In The Name Of My Father’s Estate” created by Mr Peter Lee of Rockwills Company. I assume the story & characters in the series are fictional & this series has been appearing regularly on page 3 of the Ipoh ECHO newspaper. I now feel compelled to write to you as the story created by Mr Peter Lee has been continuing for quite sometime now with no final solution or conclusion and it may mislead Ipoh ECHO readers into thinking that “second wives” have right of inheritance to the estate/properties of their “husbands” when in fact, they (second wives) are not recognised legally by our civil courts. This is due to the fact that polygamy is illegal for non-Muslims in our country. Non-Muslim men may be charged in court & prosecuted if there is evidence of them practising polygamy. Therefore the story of the fights between the characters, Connie Lee (the second wife), Patricia Lee (first wife) & her children over the estate of the deceased Mr Lee should not have been created by Peter Lee as Connie actually has no legal right but the writer (Peter Lee) seems to be ignorant of this fact

It is also a fact that a widow can only claim her right of inheritance to her husband’s estate if she can produce a valid marriage certificate. Marriages through customary rites (such as traditional Chinese wedding rituals/tea ceremony) are not recognised legally unless the marriage is registered and with a marriage certificate (which can only be issued to one wife).

I suggest you study our country’s intestacy law and read up on the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 which govern non-Muslim marriages before you continue confusing your readers (and potential clients of Rockwills) with this series or any other future articles in Ipoh Echo.

A concerned reader,
Toh Beng Hong

Peter Lee’s reply:

Thank you for your feedback.

In my earlier episode 4 & 5, I have mentioned that both the marriages of Mrs Patricia Lee and Connie to Lee Sr were under customary rites before March 1, 1982. As such, any customary marriages before March1, 1982, are considered valid and deemed registered in accordance with  S. 4 (1) of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (Act 164). This is also supported by the Six Widow’s case (Re the estate of Choo Eng Choon, deceased; Choo Ang Chee v Neo Chan Neo, Mah Inm Neo and Neo Soo Neo (1908). This is a case where the Supreme Court had to decide on whether polygamy marriages of a Chinese man prior to March1, 1982 was recognised. The Supreme Court held ‘yes’ so long as there is evidence of the marriage going through the Chinese customs. Therefore, Mrs Patricia Lee and Connie are entitled to Lee’s estate.

Even though my story is fictional but the Estate Planning facts presented have always been based on my extensive research on the relevant laws related to estate planning and inheritance and case laws in Malaysia. There is no intention to mislead the public with any wrong information contained in my articles. Due to the length of the series of articles (as it is now on the 29th episode), readers may have forgotten the earlier contents. I certainly welcome suggestions, feedback and criticism to improve on the quality of the articles.

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