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How Savings, Assets, and Possessions are Distributed Without an Islamic Will

When a person dies, all of their savings, assets, and possessions (known as their ‘estate’) are distributed in accordance with their wishes. Most people have a will in place. A will is a legal document that specifies who is in charge of carrying out the wishes of the deceased (known as the ‘executor’). It also specifies who is entitled to what of the estate (anyone who gets something is called a ‘beneficiary’). 

Muslims are expected to draw up Islamic wills. These vary from standard wills in the way that the estate is divided, with the Qur’an stipulating pre-determined percentages of what each of their family members are entitled do. 

Who gets what in an Islamic will?

As per Shariah law, assets in an Islamic will are to be automatically divided in the following way:

  • The husband of the deceased is entitled to 50% of the estate if the deceased has no living children, or 25% if the deceased has living children.
  • The wife of the deceased is entitled to 25% of the estate if the deceased has no living children, or 12.5% if the deceased has living children
  • The daughter of the deceased is entitled to 50% of the estate if they are the only child, or 66.6% if the deceased has multiple daughters and no sons (which is to be divided equally between each daughter)
  • The son(s) and daughter(s) of the deceased are to divide a percentage of the estate 2:1, with the largest ratio going to the son(s)
  • The mother of the deceased is entitled to 33.3% of the estate if the deceased has no living children or siblings, or 16.6% if the deceased has living children or siblings
  • The father of the deceased is entitled to 16.6% of the estate if the deceased has living children

Where a standard will is concerned (non-Shariah), the deceased will leave strict instructions as to who is entitled to what. No family member is automatically entitled to a percentage of the estate if the deceased person’s will does not specifically state this. This means a person can choose to give 100% of their estate to a close friend or to charity, and provided this is clearly stated within the will, their partner/spouse, children, and parents cannot dispute it. 

Changing an Islamic will

It is possible for a person to change their Islamic will and amend the percentage each beneficiary is entitled to. For example, if a man dies and he is survived by his wife, his two sons, and his parents, his estate will be divided in the following way:

  • His wife will be entitled to 12.5% of his estate
  • His sons will each be entitled to 27.08%
  • His mother and father will each be entitled to 16.67%

Many people decide that they want their spouse to inherit a larger proportion of their estate so that they are well looked after in the future. In order for this to be actioned, written consent from other people automatically included on the will must be obtained. Most commonly, people ask their parents to hand over their shares so that their spouse may have more. If this were to be applied in the example above, the distribution would be as follows:

  • His wife will be entitled to 45.84% of his estate
  • His sons will each be entitled to 27.08%
  • His parents are not included

Pressure must not be applied when gaining consent. 

Bequests

An Islamic will provides Muslims with the opportunity to action a bequest. A bequest essentially gives a person the option to divide one third of their estate in any way they like. Commonly, people leave a third of their estate to charity as a sadaqah jariyah donation, or as a kaffarah payment to compensate for any missed fasts during Ramadan. 

A bequest is not compulsory, meaning you can leave 100% of your estate to your family. If you do want to action a bequest, the remaining 2/3 of your estate will be divided with the same entitlement percentages as listed above under Shariah law. 

What happens if there is no will?

You might be wondering who inherits what when there is no will. If an Islamic will is not in place but a valid standard UK will is, then assets will divided as per the standard will but without religious beliefs in mind. 

If you die and have no will at all, an ‘administrator’ is selected. The order of priority for an administrator is: 

  • Spouse or partner
  • Children (oldest first)
  • Siblings (oldest first)
  • Other relatives

The automatically selected administrator must then apply for a ‘grant of representation’ This will give them legal authority to distribute the estate, but the estate will be distributed as per the rules of intestacy. This means certain family members will be allocated priority. 

For example, if a person dies without a legal will of any kind in place and they are survived by their spouse and children, their spouse will inherit all of their personal items and half of their remaining estate value, and their children will receive the other half of the estate value.

Rules of intestacy can be amended if all parties who would benefit agree, but legal representation may be required. 

Whether you die without an Islamic will or a standard will, it can be a costly and lengthy process to divide your estate, and it can lead to familial arguments, so it’s always best to have a will in place. If you’re a Muslim, an Islamic will is always the best option because your religious beliefs will be taken into account. 

How to write an Islamic will

If you live in the UK and do not have an Islamic will, your assets will divided as per domestic law and without your religious beliefs in mind. Equally, if you try to draft your Islamic will yourself and it is not done properly, it will hold no legal validity and won’t be actioned (the same way a standard will wouldn’t be). 

It’s always advisable that you hire a professional Islamic will writer. At Muslim Aid, we have partnered with Farani Taylor Solicitors who are Islamic wills and inheritance experts to create our wills and legacy service.

Book an appointment to discuss drafting an Islamic will today.

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