No will? What happens to your property when you don’t have a will

Sashiraj Uthrapathy
Partner at Raj, Ong & Yudistra

Intestate may sound like a medical condition of a person lacking some crucial male anatomy.

However, it is not.

Instead, it refers to a condition where a person dies without leaving a valid last will & testament. A will is legally binding document expressing your intention on exactly how you want your assets and liabilities to be distributed after you have kicked the bucket. For a more detailed article on wills, do check out the article written by my partner Joshua Ho (

Back to this: What happens to the property of a person who dies intestate. Here, the law takes over.

This person’s properties will be distributed according to Distribution Act 1958. Specifically, Section 6 of the Distribution Act 1958 says that his legal heirs (i.e. people who stand to inherit his properties legally) will get everything under his name in the following manner:

  1. Spouse only alive: All to spouse.
  2. Spouse + Parents: 1⁄2 spouse; 1⁄2 parents to be shared equally.
  3. Children only: All to children to be shared equally.
  4. Parents: All to parents to be shared equally.
  5. Spouse + Children: 1/3 spouse; 2/3 children to be shared equally.
  6. Children + Parents: 2/3 children to be shared equally; 1/3 to parents to be shared equally. g. Spouse + Children + Parents: 1⁄4 spouse; 1⁄2 children; 1⁄4 parents.

Now, if you think such distribution methods are confusing enough to require you to take refresher math tuition, consider the difficulties in applying the distribution above in properties where the deceased owns sections, or fractions, of properties.

To add to such difficulties, whenever a person dies intestate, someone (usually from the pool of beneficiaries or close to the deceased or his family) would have to step up to become the administrator. It can be more than just one person. The administrator(s) would have to apply to court for a Letter of Administration, basically a legal document empowering them to distribute the deceased’s properties in accordance to the Distribution Act 1958.

This gets complicated if the family of the deceased are not on good terms, siblings don’t trust one another and different factions within the family want different people to be administrator of the estate. This is where you will hear of long-drawn out court cases with different parties all fighting to be the administrator.

This is the reason why it is always simpler, and for the convenience of you surviving family members, to get a will drawn up while you’re still alive.


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