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.
As per Shariah law, assets in an Islamic will are to be automatically divided in the following way:
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.
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:
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:
Pressure must not be applied when gaining consent.
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.
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:
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.
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.