A Comparison of Inheritance Laws in Denmark and Malaysia

Succession in Denmark are governed by the Danish Inheritance Act whereas in Malaysia it is governed by Probate and Administration Act. Some similarities and differences  can be found in both inheritance systems.


System of forced heirship

The system of forced heirship restricts the distribution of an estate, where certain beneficiaries are entitled to a fixed portion in the estate.

In Denmark, a testator is only entitled to dispose of three quarters of his estate freely by will; his or her spouse and direct descendants are entitled to a reserved portion of one quarter of the estate. Among the reserved portion, the spouse is entitled to half while the other half will be distributed evenly amongst the direct descendants. The spouse receives the entire share where the deceased did not leave behind any direct descendants. The system will not apply where the deceased was not married nor left behind any surviving issue.

In Malaysia, a testator is free to distribute his or her estate according to his or her desires, at will.  The will is a legal document recording the testator’s intention.  There is no restriction on who the testator wishes to benefit.  Spouses or immediate family members who logically are “heirs” can be written out of the will and any non-family member or friends can be written in as beneficiaries.


Distribution of intestate estates

In Denmark, the surviving spouse will inherit half of the estate, while the other half is distributed equally among the direct descendants. If there is no surviving spouse, the estate passes on to the children or grandchildren, parents or siblings, grandparents or children of grandparents.

In Malaysia, the intestate estate will be distributed according to the Distribution Act which apportioned the shares between the spouse and children. If there is no surviving spouse, or children then parents are next in line.  


Matrimonial property

In Denmark, property owned by spouses at the time of their marriage or later acquired are deemed to be joint property, and before the estate is distributed, the surviving spouse will first receive his or her share in the joint property.

In Malaysia, property ownership are governed by the National Land Code and registration of the title of ownership determines the legal right.  The previous English Rule of right of survivorship is no longer applicable to Malaysia, so having 2 names jointly on the title does not mean the survivor will inherit the whole share on a death.  A Grant of Probate is required to deal with the share belonging to the deceased spouse and a transfer through the Land Registry of Malaysia is compulsory.  Hence having a separate will for Malaysia if you are from Denmark or elsewhere is essential as different rules of inheritance are applicable.


To learn more on :

  • How to draw up a Will for Malaysia without contradicting my Will from overseas?
  • Creating Wills / Legal Instruments which are in compliance with local legislation
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About the author

Ms. Kim Khoo

P.J.K, C.L.P., LL.B (Hons) London
Principal Legal Consultant