When a person dies, it is the responsibility of a family member or an interested person to manage and distribute his estate. If the person who has passed away has written a will, then the family member or interested person can apply for Grant of Probate from the High Court. The executor will be appointed to manage and distribute the estate according to the instructions in the will.
However, if the person who has passed away did not leave a will, then the family member or interested person can apply for Letters of Administration (LA) and thereafter to be appointed as the administrator of the estate.
There are three ways to apply for LA, with the third option being the focus of this discussion:-
- High Court – Movable & Immovable properties valued more than RM2,000,000.00
- Amanah Raya Berhad – Movable properties valued not more than RM600,000.00
- Estate Distribution Unit JKPTG – Immovable properties valued not more than RM2,000,000.00
Applications must be made under the Small Estates (Distribution) Act 1955. This Act provides a simplified procedure for the distribution of small estates in Malaysia and also applicable to both Muslims or Non- Muslims.
This is a cheaper and faster way to obtain LA compared to the other two. The cost is significantly lower because there is no requirement to engage a lawyer as lawyers are typically not permitted to be present during the hearing. Moreover, no fee is charged by the Land Office for filing this petition.
Here are the steps to apply for LA under the Small Estates (Distribution) Act 1955:
- Determine if you are eligible to apply: The Act applies to estates which include immovable assets with a total value of not more than RM2,000,000.00. The next of kin of the deceased or someone who has a vested interest in the estate can apply.
- Prepare the necessary documents: You will need to prepare several documents, including the deceased’s death certificate, deceased’s marriage certificate (if any), identity cards and birth certificates of each beneficiaries, and a list of deceased’s assets and liabilities.
- File the petition: You can file the petition at the Estate Distribution Unit JKPTG or Land Office where the deceased’s immovable properties are located. You will need to complete a Form A provided by the Land Office and submit the necessary physical documents accordingly. The said Form is also available online.
- Obtain the Letters of Administration: After the petition has been processed and approved, a hearing will be held to determine the estate administration. This usually takes about three months. Attendance at the hearing is mandatory for the applicant and all other beneficiaries. However, if any beneficiary is unable to attend, he may provide a letter of consent through Form DDA. This form will outline the beneficiary’s preferences regarding the distribution of the estate, and he may also choose to relinquish his share in favor of another beneficiary. Once this process is complete, the Land Office will issue the LA, which will authorize you to legally administer the estate.
- Administer the estate: Once you have obtained the LA, you will need to administer the estate according to the laws of Malaysia. This includes identifying all the assets and liabilities of the estate, paying off debts, funeral expenses and distributing the remaining assets to the heirs.
In most cases, Muslims will follow the Faraid Law, while Non-Muslims will follow the Distribution Act 1958 when it comes to distribution. However, if the Land Office is convinced that the beneficiaries unanimously agree on a different distribution method, they may order the distribution to be carried out accordingly.
It is important to note that applying for LA under the Small Estates (Distribution) Act 1955 is a simpler and less time-consuming process compared to applying through the High Court or Amanah Raya Berhad. However, it is still advisable to seek the assistance of a qualified lawyer who is familiar with the small estate distribution to guide you through the process.