The Law Society has published new guidance for solicitors on the drafting of traditional Islamic wills.
In the Islamic world, Sharia law on wills and inheritance varies by county and there are also differences between Sunni and Shia areas. The Law Society guide focuses on majority Sunni practice, examining the rules on succession and inheritance and their use in the drafting of wills as well as the resolution of trust and estate disputes.
Residents of England and Wales are entitled to draft their wills according to Sharia practice, as long as they sign it in a way that complies with the requirements of with the Wills Act 1837. Section 9 of that act states:
“No will shall be valid unless—
(a)it is in writing, and signed by the testator, or by some other person in his presence and by his direction; and
(b)it appears that the testator intended by his signature to give effect to the will; and
(c)the signature is made or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time; and
(d)each witness either—
(i)attests and signs the will; or
(ii)acknowledges his signature, in the presence of the testator (but not necessarily in the presence of any other witness),
but no form of attestation shall be necessary.”
The Society highlights key differences between wills drafted under English law and Sharia practice. These include the fact that the cost of the burial and any debts held by the deceased must be paid from the estate. A third of the estate must be donated to charities or other recipients who would not otherwise receive the inheritance. Specific heirs and their entitlement can only be fixed after the death of the estate holder.
The Law Society’s Nicholas Fluck said:
“This practice note provides guidance to solicitors dealing with clients where Sharia succession rules may be relevant. This is the first time such advice has been published and we hope it will assist solicitors with Sharia probate matters. There is a wide variety of spiritual, religious and cultural beliefs within our population, and the Law Society wants to support its members so they can help clients from all backgrounds.”
“We hope this guidance will help solicitors assist their clients and go some way to forming an idea of good practice when it comes to applying Sharia succession rules within the legal profession.”