I live in the United States, and would like to know how I can write my will in such a way to make provisions for my wife and daughters in the event of my death. My wife and I have both decided that should something happen to one of us, the surviving spouse will remain in this country and raise our children. We have 4 daughters and no sons. The remainder of my family lives abroad. How do I Islamically give everyone their provisions, while still maintaining enough for my wife to live and raise our children, should she choose to remain unmarried, which is fairly likely. She is the sole beneficiary of my employer life insurance plan.
In addition, we have bought a home through an Islamic financing institution, and still owe more than $150,000 to them. Will this money be subtracted among my debts, should I die?
Besides making a permanent provision for the deceased’s wife in his inheritance, the Qur’an has made it obligatory upon a man to make a will in favor of his wife insofar as making provisions for her living for at least one whole year. The Qur’an says1:
وَالَّذِينَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنكُمْ وَيَذَرُونَ أَزْوَاجًا وَصِيَّةً لِّأَزْوَاجِهِم مَّتَاعًا إِلَى الْحَوْلِ غَيْرَ إِخْرَاجٍ فَإِنْ خَرَجْنَ فَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي مَا فَعَلْنَ فِيَ أَنفُسِهِنَّ مِن مَّعْرُوفٍ (البقرة 2: 240)
And those of you who die, while leaving their wives behind, should bequeath one year’s provisions for their wives [which they should be provided] without turning them out of their houses. However, if they leave their houses [of their own accord], then there is no blame upon you in what they do regarding themselves, according to the custom.
Besides making the aforementioned provision for one’s wife, a person is free to give anything else to his wife during his life. Making one’s wife the sole beneficiary of one’s life insurance is left to the discretion of the individual. The Shari`ah has no objections if a wife is made the sole beneficiary of one’s life insurance.
As for the inheritance in your particular case, it should be calculated in the following sequence:
All of one’s loans should be paid out of the wealth that one leaves behind;
All of one’s wills (including the will made in favor of the making provisions for the wife) should be executed;
The balance left after the deduction of a & b should be distributed as follows:
1/6th of the total balance to each of the two parents (if they are living at the time of the death of the person);
1/8th of the total balance to the wife of the deceased;
2/3rd of the balance after deducting i and ii should be equally distributed among the four daughters;
A will may be made in favor of the remaining 1/3rd of the balance after deducting 1 and 2.
Keeping the foregoing explanation, it should be clear that the $150,000 that you owe to the financing institute must be repaid to the institute prior to the execution of any will or the distribution of any shares.
I hope this helps.
September 25, 2003
- Even though most of the commentators of the Qur’an consider this directive regarding the bequest for the widows’ maintenance to have been abrogated by the law of inheritance given in Surah Al-Nisaa. However, it is clear that this directive is independent of the law of inheritance. This directive regarding one year’s maintenance of the widow is only an extension of the husband’s financial obligation of providing for the wife during his life. This directive ensures the provision of maintenance expenses for the widow for at least one year after her husband’s death. The amount bequeathed by the husband under the provisions of this verse should be deducted from the total wealth and property of the husband – as is the case with all other liabilities and bequests – and then the balance remaining after the deduction of all liabilities and bequests, should be divided among the inheritors, according to the provisions of the law of inheritance given in Surah Al-Nisaa. [↩]