Handling probate and inheritance matters may be difficult, especially after losing a loved one. This process is slightly more complicated for Muslims, who are bound by a different set of rules from non-Muslims. For Muslims, the distribution of a deceased Muslim’s estate must be in accordance with Muslim inheritance law, also known as faraidh.
What is faraidh?
Faraidh is essentially Muslim inheritance law. It is a sub-set of Syariah law which deals with how the estate of a deceased Muslim should be distributed amongst various beneficiaries. As such, it is the Muslim equivalent of the Intestate Succession Act, which does not apply to Muslims. This is provided for under the Administration of Muslim Law Act.
To whom does faraidh apply?
Faraidh applies to all Muslims domiciled in Singapore who passes away after 1st July 1968. Thus, the estate of all such Muslims must be distributed in accordance with faraidh.
What falls under Muslim Estate?
Faraidh applies to all of a deceased Muslim’s estate, such as
- Immovable property
- Movable property
However, the following does not fall under the Muslim Estate
- Jointly owned property registered under the Land Titles Act (e.g. HDB flats, condominiums)
- CPF monies that have been nominated
- Life insurance payouts belonging to nominees named in the policies
The following deductions will be made from the estate before it is distributed according to faraidh:
- Gifts made while the deceased was still alive (i.e. property that is transferred without anything given in exchange)
- Jointly acquired matrimonial property, if the deceased was Malay
- Vows made to Allah (i.e. property that the deceased had promised to give if he did something or if an event occurred)
- Funeral and other expenses related to the deceased’s death
- Debt to Allah (e.g. monies owed to MUIS)
- Debt to persons
What are the rules of faraidh?
The exact rules applicable in each situation depends on the deceased’s school of faith. The Administration of Muslim Law Act states that in each case, the Muslim law that applies is that professed by the deceased Muslim. However, in Singapore, the default school of faith is the Shafii school, because it is the most commonly followed school in Singapore.
Faraidh essentially determines who are the beneficiaries of a deceased person’s estate, and how much each beneficiary should get. The share of each beneficiary depends on the total number of beneficiaries, each beneficiary’s relation to the deceased, and the gender of the beneficiary.
Who are beneficiaries under faraidh?
Generally, beneficiaries who are related by blood to the deceased, or are spouse(s) of the deceased. Potential beneficiaries under faraidh are:
- Grandparents (except mother’s father)
- Son’s children
- Uncles on the father’s side
- Male cousins
Automatic beneficiaries under faraidh are the parents, spouse(s) and children of the deceased. Where the deceased does not have a living son or father, part of the estate may go to other non-automatic beneficiaries. If there are no beneficiaries, the estate goes to BaitulMal, an Islamic charitable fund administered by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS).
In determining who counts as “children”, faraidh does not include illegitimate (those conceived before marriage) or adopted children. As such, illegitimate children may not inherit their father’s or sibling’s estate, but they may inherit their mother’s estate, and may be included in a faraidh-compliant will. Adopted children may not inherit either of their adopted parents’ estate, but may be included in a faraidh-compliant Will. Moreover, they may be entitled to a share of their natural parents’ estate.
A beneficiary may be disqualified from receiving their share under certain circumstances:
- If they have caused the death of the deceased
- If they are not Muslim
- If they have renounced Islam
How much is each beneficiary’s share?
Generally, spouses and immediate family receive higher shares. Moreover, each man receives twice the share of a woman of the same relational level. For example, a son will receive twice the share of a daughter. However, the exact calculation of shares depends very much on the circumstances at hand. A useful tool to calculate shares would be the faraidh calculator provided by the Syariah Court.
Making a faraidh-compliant Will
Although faraidh predetermines the beneficiaries and their shares, it also permits the making of a will, within certain boundaries. If the will complies with such boundaries, it is considered under faraidh and will be upheld. Otherwise, it will be disregarded unless it is approved by the agreement of the faraidh beneficiaries.
Two rules are particularly important. For a Will to be faraidh-compliant, it must cover not more than a third of the deceased’s estate. Moreover, the deceased cannot include in his Will persons who are already beneficiaries under faraidh, as this would be willing them additional benefits.
How does this work in practice?
Generally, there are 3 main steps to managing and distributing a Muslim’s estate after their death.
#1 Apply for an inheritance certificate
The first step is to apply for an inheritance certificate at the Syariah Court. The inheritance certificate is a certificate showing the valid beneficiaries and the shares to which there are entitled under faraidh law.
To apply for an inheritance certificate, you should take the following steps on an online application portal:
- Make an undertaking that you are a qualified person or body requesting an inheritance certificate. Qualified persons or bodies includes a beneficiary, or a law firm applying on behalf of the beneficiary.
- Enter the deceased’s details into the portal. The application requires the ID type and number of the deceased.
- Enter the beneficiaries’ details into the portal. The application requires their gender, names and ID numbers.
- Request for a certificate through the portal. The certificate will then show who are the valid beneficiaries and their respective shares.
After making an online application, the inheritance certificate may be collected in person from the Syariah Court after 3 working days. Be sure to bring the deceased’s death certificate and the NRIC/passport of the applicant and beneficiaries to the Syariah Court.
#2 Apply to the Family Court for grants of probate or letters of administration
Next, you should apply to the Family Court for a grant of probate and/or letters of administration. This will allow the Court to appoint someone to manage and distribute the deceased’s estate.
A grant of probate will allow someone to administer the deceased’s estate in accordance with the deceased’s will. On the other hand, a grant of letters of administration authorises someone to administer the deceased’s estate according to faraidh rules.
Applications to the Family Court are made through submitting several documents:
Step 1 – Submission of the Main Application
- Ex-parte Originating Summons
- Statement for Probate/Administration – Form 51
- Certified true copy of the deceased’s will (if applicable)
- Caveat and probate searches of the deceased’s assets
- Certified true copy of the deceased’s death certificate
This part of the process usually takes about a week from the date the documents are filed.
Step 2 – Submission of Supporting Documents
- Administration Oath
- Supporting Affidavit
- Schedule of Assets
Step 3 – Hearing in Court
Step 4 – Submission of Supplementary Affidavit and Schedule of Assets (optional depending on the case)
This is only necessary when you are not able to confirm certain details of the deceased’s assets early in the application process.
Step 5 – Extracting the Grant of Probate/ Letters of Administration
#3 Distribution of the estate by an appointed person
Finally, the estate will be distributed by the person appointed by the Family Court. This may include executing the deceased’s Will if such has been made. If not, the appointed person will administer the estate wholly in accordance with faraidh principles.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question 1: Do I have to write a Will?
You do not need to, unless
- you want to provide part of assets to your adopted children, foster parents, close friends, mosques, hospitals and charitable organisations.
- You want to provide instructions to your executors, trustees, and guardians in a Will to protect the interest of minors and incapable members of family.
Question 2: When can I amend or revoke my Will?
You can amend or revoke your Will at any time before your death. However, there are certain circumstances where a Will is automatically amended or revoked, examples of such circumstances are as follows:
- Upon divorce
- Upon marriage
- When a new will is written
As such we usually recommend that client review their Will every 5 years or after any major life event such as marriage, divorce, buying a new house to incorporate the new changes.
Question 3: What if my beneficiaries are agreeable to get equal portion of my shares of my estate instead of distributing in according to faraidh?
We usually advise all the beneficiaries to enter into an agreement to disclaim their entitlement pursuant to the Inheritance Certificate and to state the proportion in which the distribution should be made. In most cases, beneficiaries agree to distribute it equally among themselves.
Question 4: What happens to the CPF monies that are not nominated?
CPF monies that is not nominated will be transferred to the Public Trustee for distribution based on Faraidh only.
Question 5: What happens to my assets/property that are in Singapore
The claim of such assets will be subjected to the law of that country.
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This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to a practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.