Here we answer some general questions about shares of inheritance in Islam. Understand that this FAQ only answers general questions. This is not a replacement for a lawyer. Contact us if you want to get in touch. For more comprehensive information, you should get our free report on mistakes people make in their living trust, and get on our email list.
So who are the people that inherit?
Assuming all beneficiaries are Muslim, those who are always beneficiaries are the following individuals:
These are the primary beneficiaries. It is entirely possible however that other individuals may inherit. For example, grandparents, great-grandparents, siblings, uncles and aunts and so forth. All this is related to the existence or non-existence of relatives. So, for example, a father or son prevents a brother from inheriting. A paternal grandfather prevents a paternal great-grandfather from inheriting.
Aren’t there differences of opinion among scholars?
Yes, as would be the case in almost any subject. However, the differences are smaller than you might imagine. For most people, they are almost meaningless, at least in Sunni jurisprudence. There are somewhat more meaningful differences in Shia jurisprudence.
What are the biggest differences between Sunni and Shia inheritance?
There are two areas; the first is that Sunnis will tend to revert assets to a nearer male relative while Shia would not. Also, Shia jurisprudence allows for the Wasiyyah to benefit family members who are already entitled to an inheritance in Islam.
What happens if I don’t do Islamic Inheritance, can my family members just sort it out among themselves?
In theory, yes, they could do that. However, as a practical matter, this does not happen. You are responsible for arraigning your property in such a matter that it is distributed justly.
Do non-Muslims ever get an inheritance from Muslims?
Non-Muslim relatives do not have the right to inheritance. They can get a Wasiyyah. That is the discretionary 1/3 of an estate that you can give to those who are not already entitled to inheritance. This is not the same as “inheritance” as understood in Islam (fara’id), but it is good enough for beneficiaries, who can get a portion of your estate all the same.
Inheritance will deny a special needs child benefits; I can deny inheritance to them, right?
No. Special needs children are entitled to an inheritance in Islam. However, they can get their inheritance in a “special needs trust” that would allow for a continuation of benefits.
What about irresponsible children who will waste the money?
This is a complex issue that will require some attorney counseling. In general, the risk that a child will be irresponsible is not a reason to deny the right to inheritance. The right is ordained in the Quran. However, Trust provisions can be created that would balance between the child’s right to inheritance and the need to protect the child from himself or herself.
I want to give everything to my spouse first. After my spouse dies, I want to give it to my children. That is ok in Islam, right?
No. In Islam, the right to inheritance is not limited to the spouse, but children, parents and sometimes others have rights to inheritance. Now it may be assumed that the surviving spouse would just give everything to the joint children anyway, and so there could be no harm. The problem is that this assumption is often wrong. Surviving spouses may live for decades after the first spouse dies. They may get remarried, which often denies inheritance to children if the new spouse dies before the first spouse. Giving everything to the surviving spouse is an injustice that no Muslim should do.
So, wait, my wife gets only 1/8 of everything? So how can she survive on that?
She has her property. So, if you have community property (which is allowed in Islam) a wife owns 50% of the property held together, and the husband owns the other 50%. That 50% is not inheritance. The 1/8 is an inheritance from the decedent.
If the inheritance to my wife is not enough for her to purchase the home outright, does she have to move after I die?
Not necessarily. We do utilize planning techniques that preserve the right of inheritance while at the same time, allow the surviving spouse the ability to live in the home.
Do brothers and sisters usually inherit
This can happen under a range of scenarios. However, it often does not happen for many families when there are fathers and/or sons. When they do not inherit by right, they may be able to be beneficiaries through the wasiyyah, should you desire.