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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Estate Planning for American Muslims

What does the Quran dictate about the creation of wills for its followers?


American Muslims are taught from a young age that the Quran and other Muslim teachings impose quite detailed guidelines on how a Muslim should distribute his or her assets after death.  Among Americans, fewer than half of us have a will in place, according to the most recent Gallup polls.  For those in the American Muslim community, that figure is thought to be even lower because Muslims traditionally counted on the government in their country of origin to follow Islamic guidelines in distributing their assets. Now, however, it is becoming critically important that American Muslims develop an estate plan that complies with their religion and heritage.  Our Staten Island, New York estate planning lawyers explore what principles American Muslims may wish to include in their estate plan below.

Distributing Assets in Accordance with Islamic Rules

Islamic jurisprudence, which incorporates the Quran, Hadiths, and teachings from the Prophet Muhammad, lays out how a Muslim should pass down his or her assets.  These principles hold that first, before the inheritance is distributed, the decedent’s assets should be used to satisfy any debts.  This could include funeral and burial expenses, along with credit card or other debts. Once all debts have been paid, remaining assets can then be distributed as follows.
One-third of the estate is termed the “wassiyah” and it can be distributed as you desire. It could go to friends or other loved ones or charities.  Next, two-thirds of the estate will be distributed to the decedent’s family members.  Generally, the surviving spouse would receive one-fourth of the assets, with the children receiving the remainder.  Per traditional laws, sons receive double that of daughters. Islam’s order of priority for the distribution of assets is not unique, as Judaism offers similar guidance to its followers.


American Muslims are often deterred from writing a will out of concerns that they will struggle to find an estate planning attorney who can help them make a will that also follows their religion.  American Muslims should be aware that today many attorneys have versed themselves in the estate planning concerns unique to Islamic followers.  Now is the time for American Muslims to sit down with a licensed estate planner to start creating their legacy.


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