Endowment Stories

Estate Planning Encouraged in the USA, Mauritius & Malaysia

Attorney Manon Mardemootoo began his April 11, 2008, estate planning seminar in Port Louis, Mauritius, with a warning: "I spend about half of my time dealing with family members fighting over inheritances." Such seminars, sponsored by the Hindu Heritage Endowment, are unlikely to reverse this trend. Manon explains, Mauritius is a "forced heirship jurisdiction." Parents must reserve a portion of their estate for their children according to rigid formulas which can leave parents in control of as little as one quarter of their estate. With only one percent of the population having wills, a majority of Mauritian families have no plan for the orderly disposal of their estate at death, a circumstance that encourages family conflict.

Malaysians face a similar problem, as Radha Menon, an administrator of Malaysia's Employee Provident Fund, and estate planning attorney S.P. Pasupathy pointed out to some 75 Hindus gathered at a 2009 HHE seminar in Shah Alam. Malaysian law provides formulas for distributions of estate when people die without a will. Only about ten percent of Malaysians bother to write one, trusting the state to take care of the distribution.

Lack of written estate plans forces heirs to apply for a letter of administration for final distribution. Until the letter arrives, all assets are frozen and survivors cannot access resources that may be desperately needed. The inconvenience and potential conflict suffered by heirs, however, hasn't motivated many people in Malaysia to write estate plans.

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My Tool Kit: With this resource, participants estimate the value of their estate and become familiar with estate planning rules and options in their region

"But the situation in these countries is changing," observed Shanmuganathaswami of HHE. "Asian countries are enjoying a higher standard of living." Estate planning usually accompanies prosperity.

In August, 2008, in Walnut Creek, California, some 40 participants gathered for a review of estate planning basics and to hear Bodhinatha speak on the spiritual dimensions of prudent planning.

"The challenge is to bring this kind of service to families worldwide," said Phil Murphy, HHE's planned giving consultant. "The needs are the same, but the laws differ. As people experience greater longevity and increased wealth, estate planning becomes more important."

Mauritians, who now receive free education and health care, have seen their life expectancies increase from 59.4 years in 1960 to 72.6 years in 2008. Malaysia has experienced a similar increase in life expectancies, along with strong economic growth and higher standards of living.

Seeing these trends, HHE is encouraging Hindus in these countries to protect themselves and their families by planning ahead financially and drafting estate plans early. "About two-thirds of our Malaysian seminar audience was under forty," Shanmuganathaswami observed. That meant shifting the topic to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), Malaysia's backbone of retirement planning. Typically, a Malaysian worker's retirement funds are gone a few years after retirement, due to poor planning.

Swami welcomes seminar requests from Hindu communities abroad. "Each seminar is tailored to the host country's rules. Our goal is to have participants develop plans so that families will know what to do when the time comes." Though laws and traditions vary, there is one rule all countries seem to share, he notes: "If it's not in writing, forget it."

To request a printed copy or a pdf file of the estate planning toolkit, contact Sannyasin Shanmuganathaswami at 808-822-3012 extension 244 or e-mail hhe@hindu.org. Donate to the endowment funds at www.hheonline.org

Go here to download a complimentary estate planning toolkit.

 
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Planned Giving Guidance

Estate Planning Encouraged in the USA, Mauritius & Malaysia

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