Can a Verbal Distribution of One’s Assets/Inheritance Be Sufficient in One’s Life without Writing a Will about It?

Answered by Mawlana Ilyas Patel

Question

My father passed away recently (May Allah forgive him), but he didn’t write a will. However, while in the hospital, he informed us verbally over the phone what his wishes were regarding his assets.

We have been told that by the law of our country (the UK) if the deceased leaves no written will, his inheritance automatically goes to his wife. What do we do in this case? My father specified that he wants our children to be the beneficiaries, not our mum.

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

When a person dies, after his 1) funeral costs, 2) debts, and 3) one-third of will, if he has left one (to be given to people who are non-heirs and to charitable causes) from his estate is taken, the remaining estate will now be the property of his heirs. They are responsible for ensuring everyone is given their designated shares mentioned in the Quran. This is necessary (wajib) on them. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

UK Inheritance Law

As you have mentioned, when a person dies without a will, the estate (that’s everything that one owns) will be transferred to your close relative, in your case, your mother, according to UK intestacy law.

Quran Inheritance Law

The beneficiaries and heirs will be from the family, not just your mother, and what the Quran has designated based on whom the deceased leaves behind, after subtracting the funeral costs, debts of the deceased, and one-third of the will-if he had left one.

You will have to find a reliable local scholar and, as a family, consult him and distribute the remaining estate of your beloved father according to the designated shares mentioned in the Quran. (Use the inheritance App below)

If, however, a country’s law, like in the UK, prevents one from distributing the estate without the express permission of the deceased in a will, then making it possible for them to be able to do so would also become wajib on one before death. A legal principle states, “What a wajib cannot be done without also becomes wajib. [See link below]

Importance of a Will

Salim reported on the authority of his father (‘Abdullah b. Umar) that he (his father) had heard Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) saying: It is not proper for a Muslim who has got something to bequeath to spend even three nights without having his will written down with him regarding it.

‘Abdullah b. ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with them) said: Ever since I heard Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) say this, “I have not spent a night without having my will (written) along with me. This hadith has been narrated on the authority of Zuhri with the same chain of transmitters.” [Muslim]

A verbal will can also take effect. However, it is better if it is done in front of two witnesses, so it can be acknowledged and accepted by others. It is better to write one’s will, signed in front of two witnesses, and at the same time, all family it should be read in front of all family. So no issues can arise.

Check these links as well:
Inheritance laws simplified – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Islamic Inheritance App – I Will Solicitors
Inheritance Laws: Can I Stipulate Other Than the Determined Amounts Mentioned in the Qur’an? – SeekersGuidance
Is Writing a Will Wajib In Non-Muslim Countries? – SeekersGuidance

Why not begin your search for knowledge by signing up for a course on SeekersGuidance?
SeekersAcademy (seekersguidance.org)

May Allah Most High give your family every success and ease to distribute your beloved father’s estate according to the dictates of the Quran, Amin

[Mawlana] Ilyas Patel
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Mawlana Ilyas Patel is a traditionally-trained scholar who has studied within UK, India, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan and Turkey.

He started his early education in UK. He went onto complete hifz of Qur’an in India, then enrolled into an Islamic seminary in UK where he studied the secular and Alimiyyah sciences. He then travelled to Karachi, Pakistan.

He has been an Imam in Rep of Ireland for a number of years. He has taught hifz of the Qur’an, Tajwid, Fiqh and many other Islamic sciences to both children and adults onsite and online extensively in UK and Ireland. He was teaching at a local Islamic seminary for 12 years in the UK where he was a librarian and a teacher of Islamic sciences.

He currently resides in UK with his wife. His personal interest is love of books and gardening.