This article aims to list out the key changes made to the Small Estates (Distribution) Act 1955 (“Principal Act”) through the Small Estates (Distributions) (Amendment) Act 2022 (“Amendment Act”).
Amendments and Additions to the Small Estates (Distribution) Act 1955
A general amendment was made for the Small Estates (Distribution) Act 1955 by substituting for the words “Land Administrator”, except in the definition of “Land Administrator” in section 2, sections 23, 24, 26b and 26c of the Principal Act.
A new Part 1A is inserted under Part 1 of the principal act where the President of Estate Distribution appointed by the Minister from among the Estate Distribution Officers shall have all necessary powers or powers that are reasonable and permitted under this Act. The powers include the power to determine the territorial jurisdiction of any Estate Distribution Officer to deal with the distribution and administration of any estate that falls within the Amendment Act, and to have direct control and supervision over all the Estate Distribution Officers appointed under this Act. The Minister may also appoint Deputy Presidents of Estate Distribution from among the Estate Distribution Officers to assist the President in the exercise of his powers under the Amendment Act.
Substitutions of words are made for the definition of small estate in the original Act where a small estate means an estate of a deceased person consisting of any (substituting for “wholly or partly of immovable”) property situated in any State and situated in any State and not exceeding five million (substituting for two million) ringgit in total value.
An addition is made under petition of distribution where the valuation of the property for the petition exceeds one, the Estate Distribution Officer shall examine each valuation and decide which valuation to be applied in determining whether any estate is or is not a small estate. His decision shall be final and the valuation shall be conclusive. It is also added that the Estate Distribution Officer has power to restrict public access to the hearing of any petition if he is satisfied that it is expedient in the interests of public safety, public security or propriety, or for other sufficient reason to do so.
A new subsection is added, stating that where a petition for distribution is lodged or any subsequent application is filed under this Act, the petitioner or applicant may apply to the Estate Distribution Officer for a summary distribution order under two circumstances,
i) in which it consists only of movable property not exceeding six hundred thousand ringgit in total value; and
ii) for any subsequent application it consists only of movable property which has not been declared in the petition not exceeding six hundred thousand ringgit in total value; or it is filed for removal of a trustee when a minor has attained age of majority.
Another addition is made in which any beneficiary stated in the petition is unable to attend the hearing, the Estate Distribution Officer may direct the petitioner to submit a letter of consent in a prescribed form from the beneficiary within such time as determined by the Estate Distribution Officer. If it is not submitted, the Estate Distribution Officer may, as he thinks fit, proceed to conclude the hearing.
It is added that the Estate Distribution Officer may make an amendment on the order if he is satisfied that any order made under the Amendment Act contains clerical error and the order shall be served on the petitioner. Apart from this, no other amendment is allowed unless it is according to regulations made by the Minister.
An addition is made for the Estate Distribution Officer to determine whether to make a distribution order according to any agreement between the beneficiaries or in settling the terms of any distribution order providing for the distribution of property by setting the matters of consideration for immovable property and movable property.
As mentioned, this article lists down the key amendments of the principal Act. RWC will proffer further comments on certain aspects of the amendments in future articles.
The Amendment Act is able to fill up the lacunas of the principal Act by facilitating the management of applications for the division of small estates and providing the option of submitting a division petition as well as new provisions that can speed up the settlement of small estates.
Published on 10 March 2022