With the passing of a property owner, a grant of representation is required in order to deal with the property. If the property owner is a foreigner and a grant of representation has been obtained in their country of domicile, a letter of representation would first need to be recognised by the Malaysian courts before it can be enforced. This process is known as resealing letters of representation. This article will delve into the process of resealing letters of representation in Malaysia.
The resealing process in Malaysia
The law relating to resealing grant of representation can be found in Part IV of the Probate and Administration Act 1959. Section 52 allows the Malaysian High Courts to reseal both the grant of probate and the letter of administration granted by the court of probate of any Commonwealth country. This means that if the deceased’s family has already obtained a letter of representation in the country of domicile and wishes to deal with the deceased’s assets in Malaysia, they merely need to reseal the representation letter. They do not need to go through the process of applying for a grant of probate or administration in Malaysia, provided that they have already obtained a grant in a Commonwealth country.
It is important to note that in a resealing application the power of the Malaysian courts to reseal a letter of representation is discretionary. The High Court may not allow such application if it appears that the deceased was not, at the time of his death, domiciled within the jurisdiction of the court from which the grant is issued. In determining whether such seal should be affixed on a grant of probate or letter of administration, the court may require any evidence it thinks fit to determine the domicile of the deceased person.
In an application to reseal a letter of representation, while it may be common for convenience’s sake to sign a power of attorney to allow the appointed solicitors to deal with the necessary procedures, the petition for the resealing application must be filed in the executor’s name notwithstanding the existence of any power of attorney. The solicitors appointed may affirm the affidavit verifying the petition on behalf of the executor, but the petitioner must still be the executor.
In relation to the rights and obligations of the executor, the representative will only acquire the rights and obligations of a lawful executor or administrator on the date when the foreign grant of representation is resealed by the court, not from the date of the original grant. This is important to determine when the representative shall have the right to institute a suit on behalf of the estate of the deceased.
Another matter to note is that where a grant of letter of administration is concerned, similar to a fresh application for letter of administration, a security by way of bond for the administration of the estates must be placed with the courts before the court could affix the seal on such letter of administration.
Letter of representation from non-Commonwealth countries
It is also prudent to note that the Malaysian law does not recognise letters of representation obtained from a non-Commonwealth country. While there are no laws explicitly stating this, it can be inferred from the Probate and Administration Act 1959 which states that the Malaysian High Court will recognise letters of representation made in Commonwealth countries and therefore will reseal them.
It is more of a general principle as the rationale behind this is due to the reciprocal arrangement with other Commonwealth countries to recognise and enforce their grants of probates. This can also be seen in the UK by way of the Colonial Probates Act Application Order 1965 which lists all Commonwealth countries that are allowed to reseal their grants of probates in the UK.
In order to administer the deceased’s properties in Malaysia, the representative must apply for a fresh grant of probate or letter of administration in Malaysia. This application is more time consuming than resealing the letter of representation. However, in such a situation where the letter of representation was obtained in a non-Commonwealth country, a fresh grant or letter of representation will be the only option.
Without a valid grant of probate or letter of administration, it would be legally impossible to deal with any of the deceased’s assets in Malaysia. All relevant authorities require a letter of representation recognized by the Malaysian Court in order to allow a purported representative to deal with the property.
It can be said when resealing letters of representation, there are two processes to follow depending on where the grant of probate and letter of administration were granted. If it were granted by probate courts in Commonwealth countries, then under the Probate and Administration Act 1959, the High Courts have the discretion to reseal the grant of probate and letter of administration. For non-Commonwealth countries, a fresh grant of probate or letter of administration in Malaysia would be needed in order to deal with the deceased’s assets in Malaysia.
If you have any questions or require any additional information, please contact Jeyakuhan Jeyasingam or the partner you usually deal with at Zaid Ibrahim & Co (in association with KPMG Law). This article was prepared with the assistance of Nurul Izzah Isa, a Trainee Associate in Zaid Ibrahim & Co.
This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for legal advice.
 Section 52(a) Probate and Administration Act 1959.
 Section 52(b) Probate and Administration Act 1959.
 Re Azhar Azizan Harun (As the Absolute Representative of Eleanor Dulcie Robinson) (1998) 7 MLJ 89.
 Chung Kok Yeang v Public Prosecutor (1941) 1 MLJ 163.
 Issar Singh Son of Bhola Singh & Anor v Samund Singh Son of Mayiah (1941) 1 MLJ 28.
 Section 35 Probate and Administration Act 1959.
 Section 52 Probate and Administration Act 1959.
 Schedule 1 Colonial Probates Act Application Order 1965
 Application to reseal a letter of representation takes approximately 2-3 months, while an application for a fresh grant would take an estimated period of 4-6 months.