In the last couple of years, through the Islamic media, conferences etc., as well as increase in interest in shariah compliant finance and products, people are becoming more and more aware of their obligation for writing a will. This is an area that is still being neglected by most of us and it should be noted that writing your will isn’t something you do when you are old, as you do not know when your time is up and when you will pop.
Allah, the Great and Almighty, stated, “It is prescribed for you, when death approaches any of you, if he leaves wealth, that he makes a bequest to parents and next of kin, according to reasonable manners. This is a duty upon the pious. Then whoever changes the bequest after hearing it, the sin shall be on those who make the change. Truly, Allah is all hearing, all knowing.” Qur’an, [2:180-181]
The Messenger, Allah’s blessing and peace be upon him, said, ”It is not permissible for any Muslim who desires to bequeath something to stay even two nights without having his last will and testament written and ready with him.” related by ibn Omar
If you do a search on the web, you’re bound to find lots of information on shariah-compliant wills and hadith on having things written down. What’s important is to realise that you have to take into account the law of the land, the country you live in, particularly in non-Muslim countries where you would want to ensure you have an Islamic burial and that your estate is distributed according to Shariah. If not, you will have to answer to Allah (swt) why you didn’t. Think about it…
There are a number (and ever increasing, alHamdulillah) of solicitors and will writing firms out there who can help with writing your will.
Some sites that I found useful:
- Inheritance software
- 1st Ethical – Preparing an Islamic Will (PDF). UPDATE (Nov 2010): Islamic Wills Made Easy – new template available for download -Last Will & Testament; Islamic Will Made Easy. See also eas to follow guides here:Preparing a Shari’ah Compliant Will – Why & How? and Prepare Your Free Islamic Will in Just 10 Mins
- Muslim Directory Wills Guide
- Shariah Wills
- The Islamic Wills Company
- The Association of Muslim Lawyers
- HM Revenue & Customs – Inheritance Tax Glossary of Terms
- 6 Step guide for making your will (SoundVision)
- Another will guide (useful for Canada/USA)
- Denying Inheritance to Unworthy Offspring
- Why Should I get a Will ? (BBC article)
Just be careful, most firms will want to sell you additional products and services – some of it you may need to consider if you have complicated finances and very large estates.
UPDATE: In the beginning of this year, I updated my will using a template from 1st Ethical – I didn’t have to pay anyone and the template was sufficient as my finances are not that complicated. However you may find it useful to go through all the options with a legal professional and know that there may be tax issues you should be aware of. Remember that the inheritance tax (aka “death tax”) threshold currently stands at £300k for the entire estate. After that, the taxman takes a 40% cut! This is where you need to think carefully how your finances are setup and managed. Beware of any advice given that although may make sense in mitigating unnecessary tax, the main thing you want to ensure is that your will is shariah compliant – and the people who are supposed to inherit from you, in the portion that is set by Allah, should receive it (it is their right). If in the end, despite stipulating who gets what, your executor does not follow your instructions, then it’s no fault of yours.
See attached a couple of templates:
Disclaimer: Please note these templates are provided for information purposes only, and do not constitute financial advice under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. If advice is required, I strongly recommended professional guidance is obtained and these templates are not relied upon. Neither I or any of the firms/organisations mentioned in this blog will accept any liability whatsoever, for any loss or any form of damages, whether actual or consequential, arising from any actions taken or forsaken, as a result of downloading any document from this website.
- Sample will template from 1st Ethical (Word doc)
- Islamic-will-template.pdf (similar to above)
- Sample-mirror-will.pdf (different style to above)
I think a combination of the first and last samples above should cover most basic will requirements. Please note: what makes a will recognised as a “will” and acceptable by English law is (1) the actual wording (for best example please see template from 1st Ethical) and (2) you have signed it in front of two witnesses and their signatures on your will.
Please note: If any links have stopped working since I last edited this article – please use google or the main website of the company/organisation to find the templates.
Examples of estate distribution according to shariah: (see attached PDF link below)
PDF link: Estate Distribution Scenarios (More scenarios will be uploaded soon, inshaAllah, especially from female perspective).
Note that you can give up to a third of your residuary estate to a charity or someone who is outside of the inheritance list.