Islam and Estate Planning

Is it possible for a Muslim to make a Will or must he or she rely completely on the mechanics of Faraid (the Islamic law of inheritance) upon his or her death? How do you, for example, ensure that your adopted child is cared for long after you are gone? What is the position of a jointly acquired property during the subsistence of a valid marriage when one of the spouses dies? Who has overall control over a Muslim's Estate? Can a convert provide for his or her non-Muslim family? What, if any, are the legal and Syariah requirements for managing a deceased's Estate?

As a Muslim, the above questions are but some of the many possible issues that may trouble us at some point in time, especially if he/she has property (or even debts, for that matter) and realistically anticipates that death is inevitable. To be prepared, means more than just attending to the spiritual departure and the consequences that follow immediately thereafter. Equally important, if not more so, is the provision for loved ones left behind in this temporal world, for one should ever be mindful of the advice of the Prophet, as narrated by Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas, that leaving everything to charity is not necessarily commendable in Islam.

What do you want to happen to your online accounts when you pass on, and how will your Beneficiaries be able to find all the passwords? if you have intellectual property such as an e-book, photos or copyrighted material or even a business that you have built online, what plans will you make to protect it and make it a legacy for your Beneficiaries?

"It is better for you," said the Prophet, "to leave your inheritors wealthy than to leave them poor begging others, and whatever you spend for Allah's sake will be considered a charitable deed even the handful of food you put in your wife's mouth."

IEP therefore, is a service helping Muslims become aware of their responsibilities to their families and helping to preserve harmony by avoiding dispute.

Thus, IEP will help you prepare, for example, the necessary documentation which will clarify the position of your existing assets and what is to be done with them upon your death or to see how your children (adopted or otherwise) are to be cared for, or even ensuring that your non-Muslim family (if you are a convert) is taken care of and not just your Islamic brethren.

The possible scenarios involving IEP are perhaps endless and will vary from person to person. Different individuals with distinct needs require differing approaches. Be that as it may, we can safely say without proper planning, one risks the pitfalls of uncertainty and the acrimony of inheritance-related sibling disputes. At the very least, IEP may help foster better relationships between surviving family members.

A Muslim may well leave everything to the mechanics of Faraid but it must be remembered that Faraid, despite its divinely operative status, will only address a class of Beneficiaries in accordance with the Faraid rules which only takes effect upon death and not otherwise. The existence of Faraid does not mean that a person entitled under it can obtain his entitlement under a deceased estate immediately upon the occurrence of the death of the deceased person. Many steps must be taken before a Beneficiary of an estate can enjoy the fruits of his inheritance.

By planning (writing a wasiat), a person can choose a trusted person or entity (Trustee) as an Executor for the purpose of administering his estate in accordance with his wishes once he leaves for the hereafter.

If a person wishes to go beyond the realms of division in accordance with the Faraid rules, Shariah-compliant customised planning needs to be done.

Whichever IEP company a Muslim goes to, it is hoped that through expert advice and service, the natural burden associated with having to plan and provide for loved ones can be professionally shared with a licensed entity specifically established for such a purpose.

No Muslim, irrespective of wealth or status, should underestimate the need to discuss IEP related issues, for no one can ever be too prepared, especially where death is concerned. The fate of surviving loved ones, to a large extent, is dependent on the calculated and informed decisions made during a person's lifetime. Regret is not an option.

If one needs a stronger reason, other than practical ones for IEP, the following reminder from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as recorded by Al-Tirmidhi, a Persian scholar might be compelling enough:

A human being's feet will not depart from before his Lord on the day of Resurrection until he is questioned about five things:
  • His lifetime – how did he consume it?
  • His youth and body – how did he utilise them?
  • His wealth – how did he earn it?
  • His wealth – how did he spend it?
  • And what did he do in regard to what he knew?"

Thus, make haste to fulfil what Allah and His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) have prescribed in the best possible manner, for its compliance is indeed an act of worship.

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