For Muslims, Islamic estate planning can be key for the smooth distribution of assets to heirs.
When a Muslim dies, the Islamic Law of Inheritance, namely Faraid, applies in respect of the distribution of the deceased’s estate. The main heirs entitled for his estate will be the father, mother, husband or wife, son and daughter. In other circumstances where there is no father or son, the siblings, paternal uncle or the child of paternal uncle, or Baitul Mal, will be entitled to the estate. The rights and portions of the heirs are protected and stated in al Quran, an Nisa’ verses 11 and 12. Those not under the above categories would not be entitled for the Faraid portion.
In term of legal ownership, the rights of Faraid heirs would not be automatically transferred. However, such rights and portions must be claimed and vested through the legal process, or the estate will remain frozen under the name of the deceased and would not be of any benefit to the heirs. For a person who dies without a wasiat, a representative of the deceased shall be appointed as an administrator of the estate with the agreement of all legal heirs. He shall apply for a court order, namely a letter of administration to empower him to administer the deceased’s assets and liabilities subsequently to distribute the assets to the rightful heirs after making payment of the liabilities.
Depending on the gross estate value, the letter of administration shall be applied at three agencies as follows:
i) Department of Director General Lands and Mines (JKPTG) if the value of the estate does not exceed RM2,000,000 consists of movable and immovable assets
ii) Amanah Raya Berhad for the movable assets worth not exceeding RM600,000
iii) The Civil High Court for the estate value worth exceeding RM2,000,000
In addition, the representative shall apply for a Faraid certification at the Syariah Court to ascertain who are the legal heirs and their share over the deceased’s estate. But for applications made at JKPTG, the Faraid certificate is not required.
“It is advisable for a Muslim to have proper Islamic estate planning for the purpose of expediting the administration and liquidation of the estate.”
Islamic estate planning instruments
In consideration of the above issues, it is advisable for a Muslim to have proper Islamic estate planning for the purpose of expediting the administration and liquidation of the estate, as well as planning for a fair and balance distribution based on the wishes and needs of the testator and his family. Wasiat and Hibah are the two main instruments to be considered when preparing the Islamic estate planning.
Wasiat is an essential part of estate planning. Having a wasiat provides some advantages to the testator such as appointing an individual or a trust corporation as an executor to administer his assets and liabilities for distribution to his loved ones upon his demise. With the appointment of the executor, the tedious and lengthy process of getting an agreement from all legal heirs for the appointment of administrator can be avoided.
Appointing a trusted and competent executor is crucial so the testator can rest assured that the administration and liquidation of the estate will be conducted smoothly in the proper manner and the rights of the beneficiary(s) are preserved. Unlike an individual, a trust corporation such as as-Salihin Trustee Berhad is a perpetual, competent, professional and governed under the Companies Act 2016, Trust Companies Act 1949 and Trustee Act 1949.
In term of distribution, the testator is permitted to bequeath one third of his assets to his intended beneficiaries who are not his Faraid heirs. Therefore, wasiat is a good instrument for distributing assets to an adopted child, non-Muslim family member, orphanage, or charitable organisation.
In addition, one third also can be allocated for sadaqah and waqaf for the purpose of getting rewards from Allah and his blessing in hereafter. The remaining two-thirds of the estate is to be distributed among the Faraid heirs. Faraid merely indicates the fraction of the heirs’ entitlement over the deceased’s estate as whole. This could result in the fragmentation of a property; for instance, if the ownership of a house is to be shared among many heirs such as father, mother, wife, son and daughter. Therefore, in his Wasiat, the testator may ascertain the manner of distribution.
In other words, he may give specific assets to specific heirs within his Faraid entitlement or he will provide the executor with wide discretion to sell the asset without the necessity of obtaining consent from the beneficiaries. From the proceeds of sale, distribution of the estate can be divided without much delay. In brief, the executor may use his discretion and absolute power to execute the testator’s wishes provided that the wishes do not contravene Syariah law.
Hibah is a gift made by a donor to a beneficiary(s) during his lifetime and effective immediately upon the setting up of the hibah. The hibah asset is not considered part of the donor’s estate and is not subject to Faraid. Of equal importance, hibah is used for distributing the asset to intended beneficiaries and avoiding fragmentation of the property. It is the most suitable estate planning instrument for a couple without children or only a daughter, a reverted Muslim, or a couple with a minor or special child.
Business owners may consider hibah in a business succession plan to ensure the continuity of the business. Allowing the business to be run by all Faraid heirs and inexperienced heirs may lead to serious disruption or dispute within the management of the company. Thus, deciding on the right and capable candidate for taking over the business is a must as it can help to create a smooth transition and management of the company upon his demise.
In conclusion, by drawing up an Islamic estate plan during his lifetime, the testator may determine who will be given the mandate to administer his estate and the manner of distribution of his assets upon his demise for the benefit of his family’s well-being.
Article by : Amna Fazillah binti Ismail, Chief Business Officer of as-Salihin Trustee Berhad.
as-Salihin Trustee Berhad offers full-fledged Islamic Estate Planning products and services such as Wasiat writing, declaration of Hibah, jointly acquired asset agreement, takaful trust and living trust.