What’s the Difference Between Conventional Wills and Islamic Wills?

What’s the Difference Between Conventional Wills and Islamic Wills?
Legally reviewed by: Siobhan Cribbin Updated: Wills & Probate

At Cartwright King, we understand that drafting a Sharia law-compliant Islamic Will requires specialised knowledge.

Our Islamic will solicitors have the expertise to provide comprehensive advice on all aspects of a Sharia-compliant Islamic will, ensuring that it aligns with Sharia law while reflecting your wishes and sentiments.

Our solicitors can help you to execute a compliant legally binding Islamic will that is recognised under the UK legal system.

What is an Islamic Will?

According to Hadith, anyone who possesses wealth is duty-bound to prepare a will in accordance with Sharia law. It is imperative for Muslims to ensure that their wills are Sharia-compliant and reflect the principles of Islamic law, rather than being conventional wills.

An Islamic will, also known as a Sharia-compliant will or an Islamic estate plan is a legal document that outlines how a Muslim’s assets and belongings should be distributed after their passing, in accordance with Islamic principles and teachings. It is based on the principles of Sharia law, which govern various aspects including inheritance.

Aspects an Islamic Will Covers:

1. Inheritance: Sharia will instructs how assets, should be distributed among heirs. The rules include the inheritance of property, money, and possessions. Islamic inheritance laws set fixed shares for specific relatives, such as spouses, children, parents, and siblings, ensuring a fair distribution of wealth.

2. Executor: The will designates an executor or administrator. This person will carry out the instructions outlined in the will. The executor ensures that the deceased’s wishes are fulfilled. This includes ensuring the estate is distributed according to the will.

3. Debts and Expenses: The will addresses any outstanding debts or expenses owed by the deceased. In most cases, the will ensures debts are settled from the estate before any distribution of assets to the heirs.

4. Charitable Contributions: Many Islamic wills include provisions for making charitable donations or bequests to mosques, Islamic organisations, or other charitable causes.

5. Guardian for Minor Children: If the deceased has minor children, the will may appoint a guardian responsible for their care and upbringing.

6. Funeral and Burial Wishes: The will may also include instructions regarding funeral rites and burial preferences. In most cases this will be in accordance with Islamic customs and traditions.

Creating an will ensures that the deceased person’s wealth and assets are distributed in accordance with Sharia law. Additionally, an Islamic will provides peace of mind that their wishes will be followed, helping maintain harmony within the family by adhering to the rules of Islamic inheritance.

What’s the Difference Between Islamic Wills and Conventional Wills?

The difference between Islamic wills and conventional wills comes down to their main principles, content, and compliance with religious and legal frameworks. Here are some key distinctions:

Legal Framework

Conventional wills are based on legal systems and regulations. They generally adhere to civil or common law principles. On the other hand, Islamic wills are grounded in Sharia law, which is derived from the Quran and Hadith (teachings and practices of Prophet Muhammad).

Distribution of Assets

Conventional wills allow individuals a significant degree of freedom to distribute their assets as they desire. They can choose beneficiaries, allocate specific amounts or percentages, and even exclude certain individuals. In contrast, Islamic wills must adhere to the principles of Sharia inheritance laws, which prescribe specific shares for eligible heirs. These shares are predetermined based on the relationship of the heirs to the deceased.

Read more about the division of assets in Islamic wills.

Gender Equality

Conventional wills generally allow individuals to distribute their assets without considering gender among heirs. However, Sharia inheritance laws often prescribe different shares for male and female heirs. For example, in certain situations, male heirs may receive a larger share than female heirs. This distinction is rooted in the principles of Islamic jurisprudence.

Religious Considerations

Islamic wills may include additional provisions based on religious beliefs and practices. This can include:

  • designating a guardian for minor children who will ensure their Islamic upbringing.
  • specifying funeral rites and burial preferences in accordance with Islamic customs
  • making charitable bequests to fulfil religious obligations such as Zakat.

Do the Same Laws Apply to Islamic and Conventional Wills?

All wills made in the UK must adhere to the same legal requirements. Therefore, although Islamic wills may incorporate religious considerations, these must still comply with the general legal requirements of wills. This means they must be properly executed, clearly express the testator’s wishes, and comply with applicable laws and regulations.

How Do Inheritance Laws Different Work?

Prior to commencing the process of creating your will, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of how inheritance laws function in the UK and the implications they hold for your will.

In the UK, there are two key thresholds to consider before inheritance tax becomes applicable. The first is the nil rate band, which currently stands at £325,000. The second is the residential nil rate band, currently set at £175,000. The residential nil rate band can be utilised for a primary residence and passed on to direct descendants. Any assets exceeding these thresholds are subject to a 40% tax rate. It’s important to note that upon your passing, these thresholds can be transferred to your spouse.

Spousal Exemption

Certain exemptions and reliefs exist, with one particularly significant exemption being the Spousal Exemption. This exemption applies to assets gifted between spouses during their lifetime and upon death. Such assets are exempt from inheritance tax, assuming that the recipient is domiciled in the UK.

Understanding and considering these exemptions is vital, as they are often overlooked, resulting in many Muslim couples paying more inheritance tax compared to non-Muslim couples. This discrepancy arises because assets are not always directly passed on to the spouse and fixed inheritors. This discrepancy is typically due to variations between Shariah distribution and inheritance tax regulations.

Employing a Life Interest Trust

Neglecting these exemptions can be particularly problematic in cases of imbalanced estates, where one spouse predominantly holds assets in their name only.

To ensure the effective utilisation of the spousal exemption, it is recommended to consider employing a life interest trust. The ultimate beneficiaries of this trust align with the principles outlined in Surah Al-Nisa verses 7-14. However, the surviving spouse holds a life interest in the assets until their own passing, thus resolving the tax issue.

Seeking expert advice regarding your Islamic Will is of utmost importance. By obtaining a standard Islamic Will without considering these factors, you may inadvertently leave an inheritance tax burden for your family.

Specialist Islamic Will Solicitors

Due to the specialised nature of Sharia inheritance laws, drafting a Sharia-compliant Islamic will often require knowledge and expertise in Sharia law. Not all solicitors or legal professionals may possess this specialised knowledge, whereas conventional wills can be drafted by a wider range of legal practitioners.

It is essential for Muslims who want their wills to align with Islamic principles to seek the guidance of professionals well-versed in Sharia law, such as our will solicitors, to ensure that their wills are Sharia-compliant and fulfil their religious obligations.

For more information on Islamic wills, or conventional wills you can read further here.

Legal Disclaimer.

All advice is correct at time of publication.