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What assets does my Islamic will cover?

Your Islamic will, like a secular will, covers all the assets that make up your estate. When you die, the interests you have in all your property—real and movable—become part of your estate. According to American law, title to property—real or movable—transfers to another person at death either by will or by operation of law.

American law includes what is called a “right of survivorship.” For example, you and your spouse may own your home with a right of survivorship. If you die, your interest in the home will automatically transfer to your surviving spouse.

Bank accounts can also have a survivorship right. When you pass away, the bank account balance passes automatically to the joint owner of the bank account. This means that any property owned with a right of survivorship will not go to your estate. The property or its benefits will go directly to the selected survivor.

Similarly, with retirement accounts or life insurance, the person you selected for the survivor beneficiary for a retirement account or insurance policy will receive those benefits automatically upon your death. These proceeds also do not become part of your estate.

As a result, in the United States, an Islamic will, like a secular will, does not cover assets that are transferred to third parties by right of survivorship or because of pre-selected beneficiaries. If you want all of your assets to be included in your estate, you need to retain an attorney to advise you on changing title ownership of your assets owned with a survivorship right and/or change the beneficiary of your retirement or life insurance to your estate.

If you want your estate to be divided according to Sharī‘a inheritance rules, use our ISLAMIC WILL software to prepare your own customized Islamic estate plan that is legally valid for your state.

I have two sons and two daughters. One of my daughters is taking care of us. I want to leave her a larger share than my other children to compensate her for helping us in our time of need. Can I do this without violating Sharī‘a?

Strictly speaking, you are not permitted to leave her more than her predetermined share.

However, there are a few options to compensate your daughter for the help she has given you. Because she provided—or continues to provide—you and your spouse with assistance, you may have a moral and religious debt to compensate or reward her for all her efforts.

You can do this in two ways: (1) You are free to gift her money and/or property during your lifetime. This is valid and sound under the Sharī‘a; or (2) You can pay this debt to your daughter as a moral/religious debt. This moral/religious debt is paid from the gross estate as a debt before distribution of the net estate to the Islamic heirs.

In other words, if you choose to pay your daughter a moral/religious debt, she will receive the payment of the debt, plus her Islamic fixed share. We do not believe this violates the Sharī‘a. Allah knows best.

Use our ISLAMIC WILL software to prepare your own customized Islamic estate plan that is legally valid for your state. This will permit you to compensate your child by acknowledging a moral/religious debt in your will.


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