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.