My wife and I married a long time ago. Alhamdullilah, we have been blessed with beautiful children and abundant wealth. I know that under the Sharī‘a inheritance rules, my wife will only receive 1/8 of my estate when I pass. I do not want to violate Islamic law. What can I do to protect my wife and make sure she is financially secure if I predecease her?
This is a very common concern among American Muslims. Thankfully, the Sharī‘a offers solutions to protect your wife’s financial security if you predecease her.
First, you are free to gift her property and/or money during your lifetime. This is valid and sound under the Sharī‘a.
Second, you may increase your wife’s mahr. The mahr, or dowry, is a financial obligation that a groom must give a bride when they conclude the marriage contract. Any property of value can be a mahr. A woman’s mahr automatically becomes her separate property and is considered a debt upon the husband’s estate. Because the mahr is a debt upon the husband, the mahr must be paid from the gross estate before the prescribed shares are distributed to the Islamic heirs. So a wife will receive her mahr from the estate, plus her Qur’anic prescribed share.
You are free to increase your wife’s mahr to better protect her financial security as long as you are increasing it voluntarily, without coercion or undue influence. This is valid and sound under Sharī‘a without violating the prescribed-share system.
Finally, you may acknowledge a moral debt to your devoted wife based on your marriage contract. Strong Sharī‘a authority finds a marriage contract does not require a wife to be responsible for the domestic chores for the family and her husband. Some scholars agree with this opinion, but only for a wife who was accustomed to such lifestyle prior to marriage.
Based on this authority, a husband may be required to hire domestic help to provide for these domestic services. If his wife provides those domestic chores—which includes preparing food, caring for the children, and cleaning the home—the husband may be required to financially compensate his wife for all of the domestic services she provided for him and the family.
Third, another theory is based on the wife’s financial and nonfinancial contributions to the acquisition of the marital estate. If your wife facilitated or contributed to the acquisition of the marital estate either by working or by sacrificing her career to stay home (to either manage the marital finances or raise the children), then she has an equitable interest in the property acquired during the marriage.
The authority for this theory dates back to the 7th Century. The Caliph ‘Umar Ibn al-Khatab (May Allah be pleased with him) – known as the Just – resolved an inheritance dispute between a surviving spouse and her late husband’s siblings. A husband passed away with no children. Strictly speaking, the wife’s inheritance would be 1/4 and his siblings would receive 3/4. The widow submitted her dispute to ‘Umar (May Allah be pleased with him). Amir Al Mu’mieen, she pleaded, ‘you know that my husband and I worked together in the business. I would stay up all night sewing and making the clothing that my husband would sell in the market.’ ‘Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) acknowledged her contributions to acquire the marital estate and rules that she would receive 1/2 of the estate for her contributions plus 1/4 for her prescribed share.
You may fulfill your obligations to your devoted wife by acknowledging a moral/religious debt in your will. This moral/religious debt is paid from the gross estate before distributing the net estate to the Islamic heirs.
If you choose to pay your wife 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.
To better protect the financial security of your wife should you predecease her, use our ISLAMIC WILL software to prepare your own customized Islamic estate plan that is legally valid for your state. This will allow you to increase your wife’s mahr and/or acknowledge a moral/religious debt owed to her.
I am an American Muslim. Does the Sharī‘a require me to have a will?
[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyzVXkddFsg[/embed] Many Muslim scholars living in the United States suggest that American Muslims are obligated to have an Islamic will, because without one, the estate will be divided according to non-Islamic laws. If you leave a surviving spouse and you did not leave a will, your parents, for example, would not inherit, under many state intestacy laws. According to Sharī‘a, a will that leaves a bequest is either obligatory, recommended, disliked, or prohibited, depending on the circumstances. The obligatory bequest is one you must make. An example of this is when you owe someone a debt, but no one knows about this debt except you and the creditor. In this case, you must include the debt in your will. Another example is if you are wealthy and have poor relatives that are not eligible Sharī‘a heirs; you are obligated to leave them something. The recommended bequest is one you should strongly consider. For example, if your Islamic heirs and relatives are wealthy and not in need, leaving part of your estate for charity is recommended. The disliked bequest is not recommended. For example, if your estate is not large, your Islamic heirs and relatives are poor, and you leave part of your small estate to non-Islamic heirs, the scholars concluded such a bequest is disliked, because it will create hardship for your family. The prohibited bequest is not allowed under Sharī‘a. For example, it is prohibited to leave more than 1/3 of your estate to non-Islamic heirs or to give an Islamic heir more than his or her share as stated in the Qur’an. This is based on the famous Hadith of the Prophet that says “there shall be no bequest to an Islamic heir.” Unlike the Sunni opinion, the Ja‘fari (Shia) school permits a bequest to an Islamic heir as long as it does not exceed 1/3 of the estate. To summarize, if you want your estate to be distributed according to the Sharī‘a, you must have an Islamic will. Use our ISLAMIC WILL software to prepare your own customized Islamic estate plan that is legally valid for your state.Read More
What is an estate plan?
A standard estate plan includes a Will, a healthcare directive/living will, and a durable power of attorney. A will is not complicated or expensive. You do not need to be rich to have a will. Even if you have minimal assets, a will ensures your property is distributed according to your wishes, you select your burial wishes, appoint guardians for minor children, select the person you trust to manage your affairs after your death, and so much more. A will does not cover all your assets. Any asset that you own with a pre-selected beneficiary - like insurance policies naming your spouse or your children as beneficiaries, or a retirement account naming your spouse as a beneficiary, or a property you own with another person with the right of survivorship - passes directly to your selected beneficiary outside of the will. The will covers all other assets that form your estate. In your durable power of attorney (POA) you appoint an agent to act on your behalf when you are unable to do so yourself. The POA gives your agent the power to transact real estate, enter into financial transactions, and make other legal decisions as if he or she were you. This type of power of attorney terminates at your death and you are free to revoke this type of POA at any time prior to death. A health care directive/ living will designates another individual (typically a spouse or family member) to make important healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event of incapacity. Of course, you should select someone you trust, who shares your views, and who would likely recommend a course of action you would agree with to act as your power of attorney and health care agent. They do not have to be the same person. As with all appointments, a backup or alternate guardian, power of attorney and/or health care agent should be named as well. Absent these designations, a court will appoint a person to handle your affairs. With a standard estate plan (a Will, a healthcare directive/living will, and a durable power of attorney) your financial and non-financial end of life affairs will be in order and according to your wishes and you protect your family.Read More