Islamic law is adopted by British legal chiefs on wills
Islamic law is to be effectively enshrined in the British legal system for the first time under guidelines for solicitors on drawing up “Sharia compliant” wills.
Under ground-breaking guidance, produced by The Law Society, High Street solicitors will be able to write Islamic wills that deny women an equal share of inheritances and exclude unbelievers altogether.
The documents, which would be recognised by Britain’s courts, will also prevent children born out of wedlock — and even those who have been adopted — from being counted as legitimate heirs.
Anyone married in a church, or in a civil ceremony, could be excluded from succession under Sharia principles, which recognise only Muslim weddings for inheritance purposes.
The Law Society spells out its view on the subject on its website:
Clients in England and Wales can legally choose to bequeath their assets according to Sharia rules, providing the will is signed in accordance with the requirements set out in the Wills Act 1837.
Sharia rules are not identical in every Muslim country; there are differences between Sunni and Shia rules, and different interpretations of Sunni law. The Law Society’s practice note focuses on the Sunni rules, and its procedure for directing inheritances.
For solicitors tasked with drafting a Sharia-compliant will, there are three key steps that must be taken and which are significantly different to traditional probate processes. Firstly, the cost of the burial and any debts must be paid. Secondly, a third of the estate may be given to charities or individuals who are not obligatory heirs. Finally, the remainder is given to a defined set of “primary” and then “residual” heirs.
The main difficulty for solicitors preparing a Sharia-compliant will is the inability to state in advance who the Sharia heirs will be, as the identity of the heirs and their respective entitlements can only be determined at the date of the testator’s death.
This seems like a poor decision. While private citizens can make wills as they see fit, the Telegraph article makes it clear that the government will now be involved in writing up wills that are in line with Sharia law — not British law.
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