Legal Articles / Inheritance Law

Heirs According to Shariah Principles of Succession

inheritance law


February 16, 2015

Shariah lays down the relations that qualify as heirs following the death of an individual. The deceased's estate can only be transferred to persons who qualify as heirs under Shariah Law principles. Anyone who does not qualify as an heir gets nothing from the estate.

The first step followed by court is to determine the heirs and reconfirm the same by witnesses and/or documents. Two male witnesses are required to give statements to the affect of heirs and their relationship. Documentary proof like marriage certificates, birth certificates etc. are also considered. However these documents have to be attested and legalized for use in the UAE. Under Shariah law, the following relations are considered as heirs: Parents, Spouses, Children/ Uterine Children, Grand children, Brothers and Sisters, Grandparents (Paternal), Uncles/Aunts (Paternal), Nephews/Nieces.

Under Shariah , there are certain restrictions on who can be declared as heirs and certain Islamic principles apply. For example, under Shariah only legitimate relations can be heirs. So any illegitimate children cannot become heirs and are not eligible for a share in the estate. Similarly, any partnership other than a marriage between a man and a woman cannot be recognized as legitimate. Also, adopted children do not have a share under Shariah. Shariah Law also clearly states that a non-Muslim cannot be an heir to a Muslim's fortune. Nor can a Muslim benefit as an heir from a non-Muslim relative. If a person has come to inherit from an estate after committing a crime such as killing a brother or parent, he/she shall not benefit from his/her crime and following the rules of Shariah shall be ineligible for inheritance. Divorced women cannot claim from their ex-husbands unless they are within the "iddat" period and vice versa.

In principle, an Islamic will is more or less similar to any other will in the sense that it has to be made by an adult over the age of 21 years who is of sound mind and free will. It involves the appointment of a trustee or executor and a guardian for any minor kids. A will in Dubai needs to be notarized. The restrictions in Islamic wills are that it shall only apply to 1/3rd of the deceased's estate and it cannot be gifted to one of the heirs. If shares are given that exceed 1/3rd of the value of the estate, they shall only be applied by the local courts if the other heirs agree in writing and in conduct. This means that 2/3rd of the value of the deceased's estate shall still be distributed under Shariah Law.

The shares and percentages of wealth distribution between the heirs is based on clear formulas. There are so many combinations of families that each cannot be stated. However some primary principles are that the sons get double the share of the daughters hence the ratio of inheritance is 2:1. The wife gets 1/8th share from her husband's estate. The names of the heirs and their percentages and shares are clearly stated on the "Inheritance Certificate" issued by the Dubai Court which can then be take to all authorities to necessitate the transfer of shares or liquidation. Any minor children are automatically placed under the guardianship of the surviving parent.

Under Shariah, the estate of the deceased person can be divided into 3 categories. Firstly, Real property which includes land and/or building. Secondly, Chattel which is composed of money, jewelry, household items, furniture, livestock and personal affects. And thirdly, intangible assets such as shares or stocks.

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