First of all, what is a Blended Family?
A blended family is one where a spouse (or both spouses) brings with them any children from a prior relationship/marriage. The concept of a blended family is nothing new, and certainly nothing to be ashamed. However, the nature of a blended family does create certain questions surrounding your Islamic Will.
It is not uncommon to receive questions like "Will my step-child/step-parent receive anything from my estate?" or "My husband and I have separate children, how do we write our Wills?" Before we tackle those types of question, lets look at some basics of Islamic Wills.
Islamic Heirs. Two-Thirds of the Pie
Your Islamic Heirs (people who have the religious right to inherit from you) are entitled to inherit up to two-thirds (2/3) of your wealth. This portion of your Will is non-negotiable. When you die, this portion of your wealth will be distributed according to an Islamic calculation. We will explore this calculation in more detail in a future blog. However, and more important to this conversation; Islamic Heirs only include individuals through Nasab (related by blood) and Sabab (spouse/widow(er)). This does NOT include step-children, adopted family members, step-siblings, and step-parents. In other words, any children (or) parents that are not related by blood cannot inherit from this portion of your Will.
Wasiyya and the Rest of the Pie.
The remaining one-third (1/3) of your wealth is collectively referred to as Wasiyya. This portion of your Will is completely up-to-you! You can (with some exceptions) leave
one-third of your wealth to whomever you want. This is where people typically leave some of their wealth to charity, friends, and distant relatives.
HOWEVER, Wasiyya can also account for individuals who are not entitled to inherit by blood. This can include (1) step-children, (2) adopted family members, (3) step-siblings, and (4) step-parents. Consequently, a step-family member can receive up to one-third of your wealth when you account for them in the Wasiyya portion of the Will.
Back to the Questions!
So..."Will my step-child/step-parent receive anything from my estate?"
The short answer is NO. They are not considered Islamic Heirs. However, you can leave them something in the Wasiyya portion of your Will. You should also know that Wasiyya is not meant to unfairly enrich some of your children over others. You are limited to leaving one-third of your wealth, and as a result, should not (religiously) give non-blood children/parents more than what they would receive (if they were an Islamic Heir).
And..."My husband and I have separate children, how do we write our Wills?"
You should (when possible) consult with an Estate Planning Attorney, who will be able to assess your situation and properly align your Wills. Visit the Law Office of John Garland to schedule your free 20 minute consultation today.
At a minimum, you should consider (1) will your step-children/step-parent be properly cared for through their own Nasab (blood relatives); (2) will there be negative effects on their relationships with their siblings if they do not receive anything from your wealth; and (3) are there special circumstances that make Wasiyya a necessity for the ongoing support and care of a step-child/step-parent ie. physical and(or) mental impairments, other types of disabilities, and medical conditions etc.
Lastly..."If I die without a Will, does the State distribute my property evenly to my children, including my step children/step parent?"
The answer is TYPICALLY NOT. The state of Texas does not recognize step-children/step-parents as individuals who are entitled to inherit from your wealth. As a result, your step-children/step-parents are in no better position to inherit from you if you choose not to leave a Will.
A Few Words about Adoption.
There are many situations where a step-parent will formally adopt a step-child. There is a sharp difference between Islamic and State views on this matter.
Islamically, an adopted child will not be able to inherit through Nasab (by blood). Consequently, adopting a step-child does not make them eligible to inherent from the two-thirds (2/3) of your wealth. So, if you plan to leave an Islamic Will; the same strategy that was discussed between step-children/step-parents and Wasiyya would apply to adopted children as well.
From a state perspective, an adopted child will be able to inherit from your wealth. If you do not leave a Will, a court will NOT divide your property Islamically. So if you were to die without a Will in Texas, any adopted children would inherit equally to any other children/parents (by blood).
As a Reminder.
The information above is not legal advice. You should always consult with a qualified attorney in your State before drafting legal documents and (or) making any legal decisions. I have supplied this information ONLY as an educational and conversational guide.
If you have any additional topics you would like me to cover, please email firstname.lastname@example.org