Islamic Financial Planning: Estate Planning through Wasiat

Islamic Financial Planning Estate Planning through Wasiat

Wasiat, often translated to ‘will’, is a way that allows a Muslim to give away or bequeath a part of their assets upon their death to someone not generally recognized under faraid distribution. Shariah law allows a Muslim to bequest up to a third of their assets (known as Estate) to non-faraid heirs through a wasiat. The remaining balance will then be distributed to the faraid heirs.

Glimpse into Faraid

Before proceeding further, it is important to understand who are heirs under the Islamic law of inheritance known as faraid. The al-Quran and various Hadiths have explicitly outlined how faraid distribution is administered. Generally, the three main qualifications to inherit under faraid are: (1) the heirs are related by blood to the deceased, (2) in lieu of that, the heirs are married to the deceased, and (3) they are Muslim. 

Therefore, heirs under faraid include the deceased’s spouse, the deceased’s parents, and the deceased’s children. In certain circumstances, the deceased’s siblings may inherit under faraid.

With that in mind, there are those who cannot inherit under faraid. They include adoptive children or parents, children born out of wedlock, non-Muslim family members, extended family members, and grandchildren through the deceased’s daughters. Likewise, friends, fiancé or fiancée, in-laws, or causes close to the deceased’s heart, too, are not allowed to inherit under faraid.

Distributing Assets through Wasiat

That is where wasiat comes into play. Under Syara’, up to a third of one’s assets may be distributed through wasiat. Subject to that limit, one may bequeath specific items to another through wasiat. For example, a collection of paintings or records to a friend who appreciates such a collection. Perhaps one would like to leave certain investments to a specific cause or institution like a university or school.

A wasiat does not just facilitate the distribution of the estate. It is used to appoint the Wasi or Administrator. In the absence of a specific bequeathment, the Administrator would sell the assets and distribute the proceeds among the heirs and beneficiaries. 

Bequeathing to a non-Faraid Heir

Wasiat provides the deceased with the most obvious benefit: the bequeathment of a certain item to a specific beneficiary who would not otherwise inherit it under faraid. This includes loved ones like a fiancé or fiancée, a friend, or a relative they grew up with. Parents who adopted their children can ensure the well-being and welfare of their adopted children upon their passing.

Administration of the Estate

The appointment of an administrator is equally important because, while inheritance and wasiat fall under the purview of the State’s Syariah courts system, the family needs to obtain a Letter of Administration from the High Court. This Letter of Administration is crucial, especially in the administration of properties and assets like land and vehicles.

Guardianship of Minors

Apart from managing the Estate, the Wasiat is also used to appoint a Guardian for children under 18 or a child with special needs. In the same vein, one can use the wasiat to set up a Trust for the benefit of these minor or special needs children.

Bear in mind that one’s wasiat only becomes effective upon the death of the person who makes the wasiat (known as the Testator). 

Fulfilling a Missed Obligation

Wasiat can be used by a Muslim to entrust the performance of a religious obligation to another. These obligations can be either religious or non-religious. In the case of the former, one can request a relative to perform a haji badal on their behalf with some expenses covered by the Estate. In the instance of the latter, the decease can instruct another to settle unpaid loans on their behalf.

Final Acts of Charity

Sometimes one may be wanting to contribute towards an act of charity (sadaqah). They may be accumulating wealth which they one day hope to give towards that cause. It could be a contribution towards the construction of a mosque or musolla, a donation to a shelter or a school, or some other acts of sadaqah. Thus, the Testator can specify how such deeds must be done after their death with the intention that it would benefit them in the Hereafter.

In Malaysia, the Syariah rules pertaining to Muslim inheritance are codified into State laws. Note that these laws may vary slightly. Selangor, for instance, has the Muslim Wills (Selangor) Enactment 1999. One’s wasiat needs to conform with both Syariah and statutory requirements. It is important to speak to an Islamic estate planning professional or consult with a Syarie lawyer. 

For Muslims, a Wasiat could be their last act in this World. They may give their final instructions on how they wish their Estate to be administered. They can have good deeds performed on their behalf for the Hereafter. It also ensures a smooth transition and management of estate upon one’s passing.