Comparison of Inheritance Laws in Hong Kong and Malaysia

Hong Kong’s legal system was derived from the English legal system and is still applicable even though it is no longer a part of the Commonwealth. For Malaysia, its legal system is similarly derived but for an additional inheritance system of Faraid based on the Quran that is exclusively applicable to Islamic estates. Hong Kong has no such Islamic laws applicable.

The execution of an estate where the deceased has left behind a will is the same in both countries, where the named executor has to apply to the local courts for a grant of probate. If a will is not made by the deceased for Hong Kong assets, the estate shall be governed by the Intestates’ Estates Ordinance. The deceased’s representative will have to apply to court similarly for assets in Malaysia under the Distribution Act. Where there is no will written for either countries, another order of court called grant of letters of administration is then applied for. The order of priority for distribution is the same in both countries: spouse, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, with aunts and uncles being the last in line.

Where the deceased leaves no will behind but multiple next-of-kin, the shares that they will be entitled to will vary according to the succession laws governing an intestate estate. For instance, where the deceased dies leaving behind a spouse and children but no parents, in Malaysia, the spouse would be entitled to one-third of the estate and the children entitled to the remaining two-thirds of the estate. In Hong Kong, the spouse and children will be entitled to half of the estate each.

From our dealing with our clients’ estates in both Hong Kong and Malaysia, we find the probate office in Hong Kong very efficient and fast in its disposal of a testator’s estate once a will (provided it is properly written and complied with the laws there) is presented. Hence, it is advisable to have a will properly made to provide for your assets in Hong Kong than to leave it to the operation of rules of intestacy.

When you take the prudent step to have a will made for Hong Kong assets separately, your executor will be empowered to take advantage of the speedy execution by the Hong Kong probate office to have your assets released. Any delay you may face in another legal system would then not lockdown your entire estate and cause your beneficiaries to suffer a loss of cash flow and dire financial straits.

To learn more on :
• How to draw up a valid Will & Testament for Hong Kong assets
• 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