A will is a legal document that sets out the wishes of a person with regard to the distribution of their wealth, income, and assets once they pass away. An Islamic will is a will that documents how your wealth, property, and gifts will be distributed when you die and is prepared in accordance with Islam and Sharia law. The last will and testament specifies exactly what happens to your assets and wealth when you die. What you leave behind is known as your estate, and this inheritance will be passed down to those mentioned in the will upon your death.Islamic wills are also known as wasiyyah, and are one of the many important elements of Islamic financial planning.This article will discuss Islamic wills, why they are important, and how to ensure you have one prepared.
WILLS IN MUSLIM AND NON-MUSLIM COUNTRIES
Islamic wills are used by Muslims who want to ensure that their finances and responsibilities are dealt with in a Sharia compliant way once they have passed. In Muslim countries, the rules of the country dictate the laws of intestacy, which is the law that will apply on the death of a person.
However, in non-Muslim and western societies (such as the United Kingdom) where Sharia law does not apply, Muslims look to having an Islamic will in place before their death to ensure that it complies with their Islamic obligations and the rules stipulated in Islam when it comes to inheritance.
WHY ISLAMIC WILLS ARE IMPORTANT
For Muslims, it is critical that they have an Islamic will in place before they pass away. Not only is the importance of having an Islamic will highlighted in the Quran it is also mentioned in the hadith.
If a Muslim does not have an Islamic will, this means that their property and wealth will not be distributed in accordance with Islamic Sharia rules and regulations.
Islam places great emphasis on making sure you live your life in an orderly manner, and this duty for orderliness and preparedness also applies to leaving this world.
If a Muslim dies without having made an Islamic will then they should expect their wealth to be distributed by the rules of intestacy of the country they live in. In the UK and the United States, the rules of intestacy are not in line with Sharia rules and are therefore not Sharia compliant.
IMPORTANCE OF HAVING AN ISLAMIC WILL
It is especially important to have an Islamic will for those with dependants, a spouse, children, or other beneficiaries. Not only will an Islamic will deal with the distribution of your assets, it will also ensure that any charitable donations you wish to make are dealt with, but your family is provided for adequately, and your funeral is managed in line with your wishes.
It is always best to make your Islamic will as early as possible, and whilst you are of sound mind.
The incentive in doing this is that once you sort your will it can remain in place until you die unless of course you decide to make any changes in which case your Islamic will can be updated.
If you die without a will in a non-Muslim country then the intestacy rules of that country will apply. For example, in England, if you have no surviving relatives then your estate will automatically pass to the Crown.
Dying intestate not only means that your assets will be distributed without your instructions, but it also makes dealing with your estate long-winded and difficult. It can also take months and sometimes years to unravel the estate and distribute the assets.
Usually, a close member of the family such as a spouse or parent has the legal right to distribute and manage the estate and the real property within it.
ISLAMIC WILLS EXPLAINED
An Islamic will is a legal document that will outline how a Muslim's assets will be distributed on their death. What sets the Islamic will apart from the traditional will is that the Islamic will is drafted based on the guidance and rules set down by Islam and Sharia law.
The Islamic will not only deals with the distribution of your assets but should also cover what happens to your debts and monies you owe to third parties.
Islamic wills should always comply with Islamic laws of inheritance, this is why you need to use the services of a solicitor who understand Sharia law and compliance.
ISLAMIC LAWS OF INHERITANCE
Islamic laws relating to inheritance are set out in the Quran and the teaching of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).Some of the main principles of Islamic inheritance laws are as follows:
- Equality - a key component relates to equality between female and male heirs. Sharia rules state that male and female heirs should receive equal shares in the estate of the deceased
- Differentiating between debt and assets - debts and assets should always be separated and any debt should be settled before any assets are distributed to heirs and beneficiaries
- Shares - Islamic rules and guidance states that there are certain heirs (such as husband / wife/ children) who are entitled to what is considered to be a mandatory share of the estate
- Beneficiaries and heirs - for those writing and preparing wills, they should be mindful of the determination of heirs. That is those heirs who are specifically entitled to a share in the deceased estate (this includes spouses, children, parents, and grandparents)
When it comes to Islamic wills there are some key principles you need to be aware of:
- Compliance with Sharia law - make sure you know and understand the intestacy rules of the country you live in. Do not just assume that Sharia rules apply, do your due diligence and make any relevant inquiries
- Finding the right professional - when it comes to writing the will you should always seek the services of an Islamic lawyer who understands Sharia rules and the Islamic distribution of assets. The cost and expense will likely be the same as appointing a non-Muslim probate solicitor.
- Writing the will - the wording in the Islamic will should be clear and concise with no room for ambiguity or uncertainty
- Signing the Will - make sure your signature is applied in the right place and witnessed by two credible, Muslim witnesses. The last thing you want is for your will to be challenged in the future.
- Review - once your Islamic will has been prepared and signed you should review it periodically to make sure it still meets with your requirements and wishes.
There is a huge emphasis in Islam for Muslims to have an Islamic will. Ensuring that our assets and property are distributed in accordance with Sharia principles is the last legacy for Muslims before they exit this world and enter the next.Every Muslim will want to leave this world and leave their estate in a way that pleases Allah.
BENEFITS OF ISLAMIC WILLS
For Muslims, the main benefit of an Islamic will is that it ensures the estate is distributed in accordance with Sharia rules.Let's have a look at the main benefits of having an Islamic will prepared:
- Islamic estate planning - as mentioned above, there is peace of mind knowing your estate will be managed as per your wishes
- Islamic compliance - Islamic wills are Sharia compliant
- Avoids disputes - having the Islamic will prepared means that disputes about the distribution of your assets in the future are minimised
- Protection for heirs - of course, having the will ready means that your beneficiaries are protected and your assets, property, gifts, and money are shared in accordance with your wishes
- Burial - your Islamic will can outline plans for your funeral and burial and make sure it is all done in an Islamic way and in accordance with your belief and choice. This not only gives you reassurance but also makes the whole experience easier for those you leave behind.
Islamic wills can deal with such appointments, and this means that your son or daughter will be adequately supported by your nominated guardian.
ISLAMIC WILLS - WHAT IF THERE IS A DISPUTE?
If you find yourself in a situation where there is a dispute relating to an Islamic will then the first thing you should do is seek the services and advice of a professional Islamic wills lawyer.
Your lawyer will be best placed to advise you of your options, and many of them offer telephone call consultations and advice. If the dispute cannot be sorted via discussion and negotiation with the other parties involved, then you could seek a resolution through the Islamic Sharia court system.
Sharia courts are able to deal with disputes and help resolve disputes in accordance with Islamic principles.
What you should remember though, is that having a well-drafted, water-tight Islamic will means that it is less likely to be challenged or to lead to disputes in the future.
A good professional solicitor with knowledge of Sharia principles will help you prepare your Islamic will and ensure that it meets your requirements and remains Sharia compliant.
You should also make sure you speak to a financial expert who can advise you about tax planning making sure your property, assets and money are distributed in the most tax efficient way. Inheritance tax rules differ from one country to the next so it is always important to understand how they will impact you.
In addition to this, you should also consider having an executor you trust and who will abide by your wishes. The executor could be your solicitor, your child, or your parent, sibling, husband or wife.
Always be conscious of the fact that the rules about inheritance laws vary from one country to another, so always make sure you have the correct information you need. Seek the advice and opinion of a lawyer who specialises in Islamic Sharia law and Islamic wills.