LIM Eee Jin, 80, was found lying face down in the living room of his 1,200sq ft flat in Tong Soon Mansion, Jalan Berhala in Brickfields on Dec 24, 2021.
The retired accountant was a recluse, without friends or known relatives and barely spoke to anyone. His death was only noticed when neighbours complained of a stench emanating from his unit.
According to the death certificate, Lim had been dead for over a week with Covid-19 identified as the cause of death.
With no one to look into his funeral arrangements, Lim’s body was cremated by hospital authorities.
It has been more than a year and still no one has come forward to claim his assets or personal belongings including his RM350,000 apartment which is now a haven for cockroaches and rodents.
The Tong Soon Management Corporation (MC) is seeking the public’s help to find his next of kin to step in and settle the affairs of his estate.
“Frankly, we do not know what to do. No one has come to claim his things,” said MC treasurer G.S Maniam.
“We cannot remove his belongings without the family’s permission, but as far as we know, he has no family.”
Neighbours also told StarMetro that Lim had no friends, kept to himself and rarely left his flat.
He became a loner after his wife Chan Sock Keng, 81, died three years earlier.
“Due to hygiene reasons, we had to disinfect the apartment after being informed by the hospital that he had died of Covid-19,’’ added MC secretary Philip Ignatius.
“But the MC cannot be expected to pay cleaners to clean up the apartment, which is in a deplorable state.”
On top of that, bills from apartment maintenance fees, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) assessment taxes and quit rent from the land office are piling up.
Maniam said there were no telephone landlines or mobile phones in his apartment, except for an old stack of phone books from the 1980s.
“There was a box of papers with only a few telephone numbers apart from my number, Philip’s and the number of the man who delivers the gas. We could not contact anybody else,’’ Maniam said.
An old photo album showing Lim and Chan and some friends from his younger days were found in the flat, with stacks of papers from a time when he did accounting.
Maniam and Philip have an obligation to their residents and tenants to ensure that the apartment is kept clean and rodent-free but they do not have the authority to handle the case as it involves a private property.
Dying without a will (known as dying intestate) can be disastrous especially when one leaves behind a huge number of assets and a large family.
Disputes among family members will delay the estate administration process and in some cases, it can drag on for years.
Having a will ensures that a person’s assets are distibuted fairly and in accordance with the deceased’s wishes.
This is where AmanahRaya comes in.
AmanahRaya is a company established on May 1, 1921, as the Department of Public Trustee and Official Administrator.
It was subsequently corporatised on May 29, 1995 and commenced operations as Amanah Raya Bhd on Aug 1, 1995.
Since its inception 100 years ago, AmanahRaya, a government-owned company under the Finance Ministry, has successfully processed more than 230,000 estate and 155,000 administration cases valued at over RM16.7bil.
This entails both the distribution of estates involving immovable property encompassing buildings, houses, lands (RM8.7bil) as well as trust files (RM1.4bil).
But despite its century-old history, only 1.1 million people have registered their will with the company.
“That is slightly over 5% of Malaysia’s adult population of 22 million,” said AmanahRaya Group managing director Ahmad Feizal Sulaiman Khan.
“The figure shows a lack of awareness on the importance of having a will.
“People don’t like talking about death or they think they are not rich enough or don’t own properties.
“But it is never so simple as one’s assets are not just in property but in savings accounts, fixed deposit, EPF, insurance policies, unit trust, safety box, shares, or a share of the house that belonged to your parents or the car that you drive,’’ he said.
“Having a will helps dependents receive their inheritance fast and with little hassle,’’ he said, adding that the process could take one month if it was a small amount or a little longer if it involved more funds.
Regarding Lim’s situation, Ahmad Feizal advised Maniam and Philip to visit AmanahRaya to open a file and register the case with them.
AmanahRaya will then take over the case and start the process of looking for next of kin, including placing advertisements in the newspapers and conducting a search with the National Registration Department Agency Link Up System (ALIS).
They will also send out in-house investigators to verify documents related to the matter.
He said once an heir had been identified, AmanahRaya would settle all debts related to the deceased before handing over the balance.
If there is no heir, the assets would be held by the government in perpetuity.
However, Ahmad Feizal wants to dispel public perception that the trust is out to take the people’s money.
“To date, we are still processing over RM400mil of cash and non-cash assets left by deceased folk that have yet to be claimed by their heirs due to their loved ones dying without a will.”
When a person dies without a will, the property must be shared out according to the rules of interstacy.
Ahmad Feizal said that cases like the late Lim, who died alone in his apartment, was not uncommon in Malaysia, hence the importance of drawing up a will.
AmanahRaya, he added had seen a 25% increase in the number of people drawing up their testamentary script after the Covid-19 outbreak.
He went on to detail what happens when a person dies with a will.
“Upon an individual’s demise, the assets will be in the deceased’s name until their family members begin the process of administering the estate (see graphic).“The movable or immovable asset will not be transferred to AmanahRaya.
“For instance, money in the deceased’s savings account will remain in the bank’s custody until the heirs initiate the estate administration process,’’ he said.
Ramping up education
AmanahRaya has been educating the public on its role and function through editorials, advertisements and interviews on radio and TV as well as by participating at government and corporate events.
“AmanahRaya is the only institution empowered to issue a declaration or order and act as an administrator for the deceased person’s estate in Malaysia,” he said.
AmanahRaya can summarily distribute estates comprising movable assets worth not more than RM600,000 while the Small Estate Distribution Unit of the Department of the Director-General of Lands and Mines (JKPTG) is empowered to deal with estates with assets worth not more than RM2mil.
For estates where the movable and immovable assets are worth more than RM2mil, it is necessary to apply for Letters of Administration from the High Court.
“AmanahRaya provides complete A to Z solution for estate administration, trust administration and distribution of assets according to the will,’’ he said.
Governed by the Public Trust Corporation Act 1995, it is also empowered to ease the administration of estates by acting as the legal representative in cases involving protection of minors and the disabled, among others, throughout its 20 branches nationwide.
“Imagine a family of five, and the father died without a will and a dispute breaks out among the siblings.
“For example, there is a piece of land and you have to determine who gets which portion. There are even disputes as to the valuer appointed which can end up in court.
“So in family disputes like this where no one wants to give and take, AmanahRaya is empowered to act in the interest of the estate distribution,” he said.
Ahmad Feizal explained that sometimes when a family goes to court seeking a solution, the courts will appoint AmanahRaya as the referee in the dispute to ensure fair distribution according to the law.
Muslim estates are distributed according to Syariah law. If there is no surviving family member (Faraid heirs), the asset will go to Baitulmal (Islamic financial institution).
Meanwhile, non-Muslim estates are distributed according to the Distribution Act 1958.
Ahmad Feizal added that the company was working on product campaigns and advertisement on various media platforms to spread awareness on the importance of wealth and estate planning.
It also conducts educational talks at local universities to teach the younger generation on the importance of early estate planning.
“We also provide periodic mobile counter services for rural communities without Internet access, residing far away from AmanahRaya branches.
Door-to-door and video call services were also offered, he said.