Does the Husband Have Any Entitlement to the House If It Is under the Wife’s Name?

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question

I have a question regarding property ownership regarding inheritance and general distribution when one is still alive.

House (including mortgage) and other debts (credit cards) are under the wife’s name, but the husband manages everything and pays all costs. The wife hasn’t paid anything towards the house or used credit cards herself (the husband used the cards with her acknowledgment).

Now the couple has split. The woman still lives in the house with her children, and her two sons maintain the Mortgage payments. The man lives elsewhere but pays towards the credit card bill built up while married.

My question is, does that man have any entitlement to the house? Although the house is under the woman’s name, she didn’t pay anything for it. If she passes away, is the house distributed according to her will, or does the man (former husband) have a say?

Secondly, who is liable for the debts? If the woman passes away, is her savings used to pay off the debt, or does the debt belong to the man, as he used the cards (although they were in her name)?

Answer

If the house is in the wife’s name, it is legally deemed to be in her ownership. Thus, the husband will have no entitlement to the house legally. The property will be divided upon her death to her heirs and based on her will (to the extent permitted in the shari’a).

Similarly, with debts, if the debts and credit cards are in her name, she will be legally obligated to pay them off. In the case of her death, repaying these debts will come out of her wealth.

This is why it is essential to be clear about these matters. Though there are ethical considerations to take into account when determining who is responsible for such debts or how the home should be managed/divided. The fact is that legally the responsibilities fall upon the party named as owner or in whose name debts are being taken out.

Check out these links:
Who Becomes the Owner of a Jointly-Owned Business Between Spouses After the Death of One of Them?
Is My Wife Obligated to Give Me Her Income?
How Do I Divide My Will and Inheritance?
Inheritance law
How Does a Wish for Transfer of Ownership Affect Inheritance?
Dividing an Estate for Inheritance

[Ustadha] Salman Younas
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Born and raised in New York, Ustadh Salman Younas graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in Political Science and Religious Studies. After studying the Islamic sciences online and with local scholars in New York, Ustadh Salman moved to Amman. There he studied Islamic law, legal methodology, belief, hadith methodology, logic, Arabic, and tafsir. He is now in his final year of his PhD at Oxford University, looking at the early evolution of the Hanafi madhab.
His teachers include: Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Shaykh Salah Abu’l Hajj, Shaykh Ashraf Muneeb, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Shaykh Hamza Karamali, Shaykh Ahmad Snobar, Shaykh Ali Hani, Shaykh Hamza Bakri, Ustadh Rajab Harun and others.
Ustadh Salman’s personal interests include research into the fields of law/legal methodology, hadith, theology, as well as political theory, government, media, and ethics. He is also an avid traveler and book collector. He currently resides in the UK with his wife.