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Malaysian Case Studies at the Advanced Training, Lebanon (June 2004)
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Malaysian Case Studies at the Advanced Training, Lebanon
June 2004

Inheritance case studies for Rights at Home Training:

Case 1. A man dies leaving a wife and three daughters. The man also leaves a mother, five brothers and two sisters. The husband’s family insists that they get their share of inheritance from the deceased’s estate. This includes a house, savings in a bank and money in the  Employee’s Provident Fund. The wife suggested that the outstanding loan for the house be paid for from the deceased’s savings and EPF funds. Moreover, the wife had jointly contributed to the monthly repayment of the housing loan and she and her daughters wanted to remain in the marital home. The deceased’s family objected. They argued that the savings, EPF money and the house are all a part of the deceased estate and should be divided according to faraid rules. They wanted the house sold and proceeds to be divided. Result: the widow and her three daughters were forced to sell the house and live in a rented house and the proceeds from the sale of the house (minus payment for bank loan),  savings and EPF money were divided according to faraid rules among the widow, her daughters and the husband’s parent and siblings.

Questions:

(i) Can the marital home (what more when the wife has financially contributed to the acquisition of the home) be considered a part of the deceased’s estate?

(ii)
Should  the EPF funds be considered a part of the deceased’s estate? OR can it be considered as part of maintenance funds set aside specially for the interests of the man and his dependents. According to Islamic law, a man is responsible for the maintenance of his wife and children and if he has excess funds, for his parents as well. Therefore can the man’s EPF funds be considered as monies saved specially for his dependents, and therefore cannot be included as part of his estate. This means there is a distinction between what is the man’s estate (which is for distribution according to faraid rules) and what is the man’s maintenance fund which is only for his immediate dependents – wife, children and possibly parents. There is also a distinction to be made who are the man’s heirs and who are his dependents. According to shariah, the wife and children are his main dependents.


(iii)
Can the wife claim for her share of  jointly acquired property upon the death of her husband before the husband’s estate is distributed according to faraid. If a woman is entitled to a share of the matrimonial property at the time of divorce, why can’t she make this claim first  at the time of death and only then will what remains be considered the estate to be distributed according to faraid rules (where the wife will still get her entitlement).


Case 2:
A single daughter quit her job to look after her ailing father until his death. For over 20 years, she had maintained her parents by giving them a monthly allowance. Upon her father’s illness, she paid for all his hospital and medical bills as well,  and physically and emotionally took care of him on a daily basis for 2 years.  Upon death, her two brothers insisted that the deceased estate is divided according to faraid, while the sister wanted the brothers to jointly agree that a bigger share go to her, or at least for the estate to be divided equally among them.  However, the brothers insisted on the faraid rule.  The daughter feels this is unjust as her brothers, who are all professional men, did little  to contribute materially, physically or emotionally to the well-being of their father throughout his life.


Questions:

(i) Even though Malaysian faraid regulations allow for the heirs to make whatever changes they want to the faraid rules, this can only be done with the agreement of all heirs. In this case, the sister feels a great injustice has been done. How can the faraid rules be adjusted to reflect the contributing roles of the heirs?

(ii)
In Shariah, the son gets double the share is a privilege that is linked to his responsibility of maintenance. Is it possible to regulate the responsibility aspect of faraid rules to ensure that the man uses his share for the benefit of his dependants and to remove this share if he fails to uphold his responsibilities of maintenance.

Case 3: A man dies leaving a wife, but no children. He leaves his parents and two brothers. According to faraid rules, the wife inherits only ¼ of the estate, while the husband’s family gets the rest. She was also forced to sell the marital home in which she had lived with her husband for 30 years. She had also financially contributed to its acquisition, but the property  was in her husband’s name only. She feels a great injustice has been done that she, a wife of 35 years who had enjoyed a particularly close and loving relationship with her husband, should be treated this way. Moreover, her husband’s siblings were never close to him.

Questions (similar to case 1):


(i) Can the wife claim a share of the matrimonial property first before the rest becomes the deceased’s estate to be distributed according to faraid.

(ii)
What right does she have to the marital home?

Case 4:
A man dies leaving two wives and five children, four from the first wife, and one from the second wife. He had been married to the first wife for over 20 years and to the second wife for three years. The first wife feels it is unjust that her share of the deceased’s estate is equal to the second wife’s share. She felt that she had contributed to her husband’s acquisition of his assets,  through her devotion as a wife and mother.  When they first got married, they had nothing to their name and she had helped him build a successful business as his dutiful wife who accompanied him to functions, entertained his friends and clients, fulfilled his needs and maintained the home and children well. She asked why should the wife of three years who entered into their lives at a time when they were wealthy and comfortable, and who contributed nothing to the acquisition of the assets,  get an equal share of the estate?


Questions:


(i) Is there some principle within shariah where the financial rights of the first wife can be recognised for greater consideration within a polygamous marriage?

Note: In Malaysia, EPF and SOCSO monies are considered a part of the deceased’s estate upon death. The Muslim beneficiary named are regarded only as administrator of the the monies which he/she is responsible for dividing according to faraid rules.

The Insurance Act was amended in 1996 where the beneficiary can no longer be considered the sole heir. The monies will be divided according to faraid rules. We are particularly outraged with this. A man buys an insurance policy to protect himeself and his dependents, upon his death. How can his non-dependants be regarded as heirs to his insurance benefits under shariah?

We appreciate your answers and feedback.

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