“It is a duty of a Muslim who has anything to bequeath not to let two nights pass without including it in his Will.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

From a Shari’ah perspective it is the obligation of a person to ensure that their assets are distributed correctly upon death. Most scholars maintain that for this be guaranteed and avoid any doubts for the family a person should prepare a legally valid Will. The implications for passing away without a Will in Britain are further complicated by laws which mean that assets are distributed differently to Islamic principles. If you require more information on the Shari’ah perspectives, please contact an Islamic Scholar.

Choosing to include a charitable bequeath in your Will ensures that your good deeds will continue to gain you reward after your passing and leave a lasting legacy which benefits humanity. All bequests to charities are exempt from inheritance and capital tax so there could be possible financial benefits to your heirs too. To give a charitable bequest after your death you can simply include it in your Will or make a declaration to your personal representatives who will manage your estate.

By including charities like African Development Trust in your Will you will be making sure that your inheritance lives on long after you depart, creating waves of change and transforming lives. Contact us for more information on making a charitable bequest.

1. Value your assets

Before making a Will it is a good idea to make a list of everything that you own. This is known as your ‘estate’ and should include your home, car, savings and content of your home. It is also important to remember to any debts, including unpaid mahr (dowry) and Zakat.

If the value of your assets exceeds £325,000 or is likely to upon your death, then you should consider some ways to minimise the Inheritance Tax. Ways to do this include making inter vivas gift seven years before death or making a bequest of up to one-third of the estate to charity.

2. Do you need a solicitor?

It is possible to make your own Will, but because it is a legal document, we strongly recommend seeking professional advice.

For your Will to be valid the basic requirements of UK domestic law listed below must be satisfied:
  • You must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind
  • Your Will must be done in writing and identify yourself as the author of the Will
  • In the Will you should state that it is your last Will and any previous ones are revoked
  • The Will must be attested by two witnessed and be dated and signed by you in their presence. The witnesses can be neither a spouse nor beneficiary of the Will.
3. Decide on your funeral and burial arrangements

You should specify in your Will that you like your funeral and burial rites to be carried out in accordance with the practises of Islam. These include:
  • Not having your dead body subjected to a routine post Morten examination and ensuring your body is released for a Muslim burial immediately after death.
  • Advising where and how your body is to be buried.
  • Making it clear if you do not wish for any of your organs to be used for medical research or organ replacement operations.
  • You may wish to be buried abroad. You should remember that as well as being costly, the dead body is usually emptied of blood and filled with alcohol before being flown abroad. This all should be considered before making the decision.
4. Decide what to leave to whom

After the payment of any taxes, debts and any funeral or administration expenses up to one-third of your estate can be left anyone of your choice. This can include family or friends who not entitled to inherit under Shari’ah or charities. If upon division of the estate, it is clear that your bequests exceed more than one-third then your executors will have to proportionally reduce them or those entitled to fixed shares can choose to decrease their own share amounts.

In your Will you will need to specify that the remaining two-thirds of the estate is distributed in fixed shares amongst your legal heirs in accordance with the madhab you follow. You can choose to detail specific items or sums of money for any relative’s share, but if the value exceeds the amount of the share they are entitled to the executors of the Will can decide to reduce it, ignore what has been specified or other relatives can choose to reduce their own shares. It is common for a Will to simply state that the estate is to be divided amongst the surviving relatives in accordance with Shari’ah without specifying any particular items for certain relatives.

The basic principles for the shares are:
  • The closest relatives (husband, wife, son, daughter, father and mother) will always inherit a share and has priority over more distant relatives.
  • In the absence of the closest relatives the more distant members of the family, such as grandparents and grandchildren, will then be entitled to fixed shares.
It is important that you include a residuary clause in your Will which states what will happen to your estate re if there are no surviving relatives. Under Shari’ah, your estate would go to the bayt al-mal and spent on social welfare. In the absence of this provision in your community a charity concerned with this work is your best option.

5. Choose your executor(s) wisely

You will need to choose up to four people to carry out the wishes expressed in your Will and act as your executors. Executors can also be beneficiaries in your Will but, remember that whoever you choose will need to be willing to accept what can be a lengthy and time-consuming responsibility. If you Will is complicated it may be prudent to choose a specialist lawyer, but they will probably expect to be paid for their services from your estate.

Although even if your executors do not know how to calculate the Qur’anic shares they can find an alim or use online software to calculate it, we would recommend ensuring that your Will clearly states the shares to avoid any doubt.

6. Choose a guardian for your children

If it is possible that you may have children under the age of 18 when you die you should appoint a guardian to look after them in the unlikely event that both guardians die while they are still minors. This is particularly important for those who have non-Muslim relatives who would like their children to be brought up as Muslims.

In your Will you should also include a clause dealing with how many minors’ shares should be held on trust, invested and used for their education and other benefits. If you would not like for any shares to be invested in schemes which involve interest, then this should also be detailed in this section.

7. Choose your witness

Ideally you should choose two trustworthy Muslim men to witness the signing of your Will. If this is not possible then two non-Muslim men or women may also be used as witnesses. Under Shari’ah, two women may act as a witness instead of one man, but for the purpose of English Law one women may act as a witness for one man. Remember that if anyone who will benefit in your Will is used as a Witness, they will not permitted to inherit from you.

8. Keep your Will safe

Once you have made your Will and it has been signed and witnessed then you should store in a safe place, with your solicitor or with a trustworthy friend or relative. It is important that your executor(s) is informed of where the original Will is being kept and keep a photocopy of your own records.

9. Keep your Will up-to-date

It is important that you review your Will on a regular basis as changing circumstances, such as marital situation, may affect its validity. For any significant changes it may become necessary to make a new Will, but for minor changes you may just require a Codicil which makes an addition or alteration to your existing Will.

It is important to remember that you should not alter your Will by crossing out or adding words. If you do this then your Will may be rendered invalid in the eyes of the law.