Muslims encouraged to write wills to prevent disputes

National 2 minutes, 57 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

MOST Muslims in Brunei fail to understand the importance of writing a will to prevent inheritance disputes, said a prominent Syariah lawyer yesterday.

The practice of preparing a will is rare among the Muslim community in Brunei, said Mohd Yusof Halim, who rely on faraidh, a section of the Islamic law that deals with the distribution of the deceased’s estate in accordance with the Quran and hadith.

“There is a misconception that _faraidh _will cater for everything once you die, but it doesn’t. If you want to award guardianship of your children to a specific person, or give part of your estate to your adopted children or charity, you must outline this clearly in a will, since _faraidh _does not provide for it,” he told The Brunei Times.

Islamic law only provides a mechanism for assets to be divided amongst blood relatives and a spouse, but does not make provisions for stepchildren or relatives who are non-Muslims.

Mohd Yusof gave a public talk yesterday on laws regarding wills and inheritance for both Muslims and non-Muslims, in a bid to raise awareness of an issue he says causes many families to break apart.

“A lot of people say ‘I don’t have property so I don’t need to make a will’ but there are other things to take into consideration. It causes so many problems because you see families breaking apart. If someone wants to make things difficult, disputes can drag out in courts for years,” he said.

Mohd Yusof added that wills are not just for division of assets, but are an important tool for repaying any debts a person may owe at the time of their death.

“The surviving family members are responsible for repaying debts owed by deceased. It is a sin, or haram, to take the inheritance without paying the debts first.”

Muslims are also required to pay the fidyah (a type of payment distributed to the less fortunate) owed by a relative upon their death.

“We are encouraged in very strong terms in the Quran and _Hadith _to make a will,” Mohd Yusof said.

It is also important to state in a will who will manage the division of estate, he added, as dishonest or slow administrators can cause a lot of problems.

Under Islamic law, anyone can be appointed to administer the division of assets, said Mohd Yusof, who encouraged the use of lawyers or accountants to ensure a smooth process. “You spend a bit of money drawing up a will so your children and heirs won’t have any problems.”

He said while finances play a small part in people’s reluctance to pay lawyers to draw up a will, another factor is the unwillingness to talk about death.

While a Muslim will can be drawn up by anyone, the attorney encouraged people to find a firm which has both syariah and civil lawyers, as issues pertaining to both syariah and civil laws may be involved.

Yusof Halim & Partners, in collaboration with the Brunei Social Welfare Council (MKM), is currently running a series of monthly legal talks to raise public awareness on a wide range of topics, such as domestic violence, marriage, divorce and inheritance.

Mohd Yusof said that the monthly talks were introduced in response to the large volume of enquiries on Syariah law received at MKM’s pro bono legal clinic, where lawyers said there was a lack of awareness among the public on basic laws relating to divorce, matrimony and inheritance.

The Brunei Times