As Muslims, there is an obligation to ensure the proper distribution of wealth upon death. Doing so constitutes an act of worship to Allah. In Islam, a person is only a trustee of wealth, and the law of inheritance in Pakistan ensures that the wealth is to be distributed fairly amongst the legal heirs according to Shariah. However, most people residing in Pakistan are not aware of their rights under inheritance laws or the rules and procedures associated with it, therefore, a lack of basic knowledge leads to unfair distribution and at times people, mostly women, and children are unjustly robbed of inheritance.
This article provides a brief overview of how the distribution of inheritance in Pakistan works:
Property Distribution Laws in Pakistan
Pakistan – being an Islamic republic – follows the Shariah law in the case of transferring properties after the death of a blood relative. To enact the Shariah law in Pakistan, the following two laws are used:
- Muslim family law ordinance. 1961
- The West Pakistan Muslim Personal Law, 1962
Paying Funeral Expenses
The primary duty of utmost priority according to Islamic law is to make sure that the funeral expenses of the deceased are paid off from the wealth of the deceased before any distributions of the wealth are made. As there are many aspects of funeral expenses, including unconventional cultural duties such as feeding the attendees of the burial, there is a consensus among scholars that the activities that must be paid for include washing, shrouding the deceased, and burying him. Any further ceremonial activities should not be paid for from the wealth of the deceased.
Clear Off the Debt First
Before the distribution of any property of the Deceased takes place, it’s important to first clear off all the debts of that individual. This includes the dower amount (Haq Meher) of the wife, in the event that the deceased person is her husband, which if left unpaid at the time of marriage should be cleared. Distribution of the wealth before clearing all debts and liabilities is unlawful and should be strictly avoided by the legal heirs.
The Concept of the Will
If the deceased person has left behind a will, that needs to be honored after the clearing of all debts. However, under Islamic law, only one-third of the deceased’s total assets can be given this way and the remaining assets are to be distributed amongst the rightful legal heirs.
How is the Estate divided?
Although the division of the estate can differ depending on the sect the deceased belongs to, most commonly, it is distributed in accordance with a hierarchy of three classes of heirs:
- First-class often referred to as the Quranic Heirs or Sharers; and
- The second class includes grandparents and siblings. In the absence of siblings, nephews and nieces inherit.
- The third class includes paternal and maternal aunts & uncles and their descendants.
Six heirs will always inherit if they survive the deceased and these are, husband/wife, son, daughter, father, and mother. A brief understanding is as follows:
- A husband is entitled to half his deceased wife’s estate if she has no children. If she has children, he is entitled to a quarter share.
- A wife is entitled to a quarter share of her deceased husband’s estate if she has no children. If she has children, she is entitled to one-eighth.
- Sons usually inherit twice as much as their sisters when one of their parents dies.
- The mother and father of the deceased are entitled to one-sixth of the share each if the deceased had children, if the deceased had no children, then the mother is entitled to one-third of the whole estate.
Finally, the disqualification of a rightful heir from inheritance can be enacted in the following two ways
- A difference in religion between the heir and the parent
- The homicide of the deceased by the heir
While the most crucial aspects of inheritance distribution have been covered, A more detailed understanding of the lawful ratio of the distribution of wealth in multiple scenarios can be found here.
Applying for Succession after the Death of a Deceased
Losing a loved one can be an extremely difficult time and the last thing a grieving soul wants to do is deal with the worldly repercussions of the death of their loved one, however, one must conjure the courage to go through with the distribution, as it is an act in the path of Allah.
Although the process used to be extremely tedious in previous years, presently, the process of obtaining the succession of the estate of a deceased person has been fairly simplified through recent legislation and can be followed through a quick five-stage process facilitated by Succession Facilitation Units operated by the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA). If you need more clarity or legal expertise, feel free to reach out to the best lawyers in Pakistan at Sardar & Co who can advise you and help you with the procedure.