Rockwills Estate Planning Article: Planning Your Family Charter

Evanna Phoon wrote the below article and she is a Senior Franchisee of Rockwills. She can be contacted at

* This article written by Evanna Phoon appeared in Malaysia SME newspaper *

Planning Your Family Charter

Family Governance Structure or some might call it Family Charter varies from individual family to family. From our experience, we often see a long debate between family members just when we are just about to scope out an acceptable definition of “family member” and “marriage”.

In the last issue, we discussed about who is consider a family member and next question is what is consider a marriage recognized by the family?

In some Western country, there’s a common law relationship. If a couple don’t get married but they stay together for over a number of years, then they practically have a marriage-like relationship, and the law recognizes it even when they are separated, the other partner can have certain maintenance claims or certain division, so the law recognizes it but as the family, do you recognize it? Now if it’s not marriage, in a way it’s legitimate as long as the founder of the family business trust put in the family charter saying that the family council should accepts it. This is a more “open” family.

For some conservative family that we’ve met, they specifically stated in the trust that if their children are not married, their grandchildren won’t be part of the family. So this proves that valid marriage is very important to that family.

Then we’ll ask them further. “Your future generation might be all over the globe, maybe in UK, US or Europe. There are possibilities that your descendant enters into same sex marriage, which might be recognized in that particular country. Do you recognize it? “We’ll see rolling eyes and the founder could not even possibly think of such scenario, but as a professional, we need to think of all possible scenario because planning for a multigenerational family business trust, we should never confine ourselves to only Malaysia or only the short term possibilities. It means that we need to think at least 100 years and above.

Sir Elton John and his partner David Furnish entered a civil partnership on 21 December 2005. Their son, Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John, was born to a surrogate mother on 25 December 2010 in California.

Civil partnership in the United Kingdom gave same-sex couples rights and responsibilities identical to civil marriage. They are entitled to the same property rights as married opposite-sex couples, the same exemption as married couples on inheritance tax, social securities and pension benefits. The ability to get parental responsibility for a partner’s children.

Next question is, “How about in the event where you son is a sperm donor and has your DNA. Or your daughter could be the one who having the egg. So, do you recognize the child of this sort of arrangement to be part of your family member? “

Some families do not recognize the common law marriage of boyfriend and girlfriend who stayed for 20 years and even have 3 children. But they come to recognize the same sex marriage of the civil partnership. This definition stage of family member and marriage brings a lot of discussion among the family member and can be quite interesting.

This should give Malaysia SME business owners more idea and the sort of questions you should think of (whether you like it or not) when planning for your own family charter.

One important thing to put in your family charter is also to pen down the family history by ancestors. We’ll explore that in the next issue. Stay Tuned …

MalaysiaWills CEO, Evanna Phoon.

About the Author

Evanna Phoon is CEO & Founder of, Malaysia’s first online will writing service provider for Rockwills Corporation Sdn Bhd & as-Salihin Trustee Bhd. She can be contacted via


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Monday, July 30th, 2012 article

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