ISLAMIC WILLS

EXPLORING THE BASICS

ISLAMIC WILLS 

AL- Wasiyyah

It is prescribed that when death approaches any of you - if they leave something of value - a will should be made in favor of parents and immediate family with fairness. [This is] an obligation on those who are mindful [of Allah]. 

AL Qur'an 2:180

From the Islamic perspective, the importance of leaving a lawfully valid Will  cannot be overstated. It is the duty upon every Muslim to leave their wealth and estate in accordance with Allah's commandment in the Holy Qur'an. 
 
...BUT MY FAMILY WILL DIVIDE UP MY PROPERTY, RIGHT? 

Not necessarily. While many Muslim families find it easier to ensure all proper burial rights; it is a misconception that families will have total control over their loved-ones estates when there is no Will. In actuality, the state (in the absence of a Will) may enforce a default order of distribution for all of a persons property. This order of distribution may not always align with Islamic principles.
 

FUNDAMENTALS OF ISLAMIC WILLS

DEBTS

In what ye leave, their share is a fourth, if ye leave no child, but if ye leave a child, they get an eighth; after payment of legacies and debts...

AL Qur'an 4:12

BURIAL RITES

DISTRIBUTION OF THE ESTATE 

The Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of Allah be upon him, advised one of his companions to bequeth 1/3 of his estate as a gift, saying "It is better to leave them rich rather than poor and destitute."

Saheeh Al- Bukhari

GUARDIANSHIP

Prior to any distribution of property to the family, charity, friends etc., the Executor of the estate must settle any debt that are owed. Covered under State law, this is true for both Muslim and Non-Muslims. However, it is especially important in Islam. Allah makes specific requests upon all Muslims to settle debt(s). There are also several references in Hadith that stress the seriousness of paying off all of our debt. 
This step in your Estate Planning is extremely important. Under both State and Shariah Law, a family may not receive  inheritance if the estate is not sufficient to cover all of the debts. 
Islam has established special traditions that inform the handling of the body (upon its passing), the funeral, and how/where the family will choose for burial. Where there may be doubt or confusion during such a difficult time for our loved ones; an Islamic Will can outline all of the proper traditions, desired burial location, and any particular requests.
Through the Islamic perspective, it is best to think of a person's estate as separated into thirds. 
WHO GETS THE FIRST 1/3 OF MY ESTATE?
 
In short, its really up to each person. Obviously there are some exceptions; however in general, a Muslim is permitted to make charitable contributions or bequeath to whomever they want (up to but not exceeding) 1/3 of the estate. There are several considerations that every Muslim should address before assigning inheritors to this portion of their estate. A qualified  attorney can carefully walk a person through this process; ensuring they make a well-informed decision. 
WHO GETS THE OTHER 2/3 OF MY ESTATE?
The Qur'an is very explicit and detailed about the remainder of the estate. However, to simplify, Allah has commanded Muslims to divide 2/3's of their estate among heirs by Nasab (blood relations) and heirs by Sabab (special relations spouses).
All parents, both Muslim and Non-Muslim, ask themselves at some point "who will take care of my children if I die tomorrow?" Still, this question is especially important to followers of Islam. In the unfortunate event that both parents pass away; the guardian of the child must be among other things, a Muslim. A valid Will will assist the court in assigning a guardian for their child (that they would be comfortable with) in the event that their immediate family is absent (or) unable to assume the responsibility. 

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