04 Apr American Muslims: Don’t Expect US Gov’t to Follow Islamic Asset Distribution Guidelines Automatically
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
April 4, 2019
American Muslims: Don’t Expect US Gov’t to Follow Islamic Asset Distribution Guidelines Automatically
America strives to be a country that separates the legal system from the rules of organized religion. No person of faith should expect the government to automatically know and abide by their religious doctrine when sorting out wills and other estate planning documents.
Unfortunately, a recent report from the Houston Chronicle shows how assumptions about religious faith can end up causing a lot of stress for you and your beneficiaries.
When Estate Planning and Religion Clash
The report details how the clash between estate planning law and organized religion is especially present in the Muslim community. Why? Because Islam has specific guidelines about asset distribution. The Qur’an states: “It is the duty of a Muslim who has anything to bequest not to let two nights pass without writing a will about it.”
In Muslim-majority countries, the government understands and abides by these rules. But America is not so understanding.
When Muslims in Florida pass away without a will, their assets aren’t distributed according to the Qur’an’s guidelines. They go through probate, a slow and grueling process that does not consider specific laws within Islam. As a result, Muslims may find that their assets are distributed “incorrectly” and feel conflicted during the probate process.
Not Muslim? You Might Still Face Conflicts
Remember, probate laws don’t consider any specific religious doctrine when distributing assets. Like Islam, Judaism has specific policies about distributing assets. For example, a man’s wife will receive no sort of inheritance. They might get money from a pre-nuptial or a small amount of support until remarriage, but most of the decedent’s assets will go to the oldest son.
How to Find a Compromise
People of faith should reach out to community leaders about ways to compromise and create an estate plan that doesn’t compromise the doctrines of the religion, but still abides by state laws.
Keep an open mind during this process. While the Torah, Qur’an, and Bible have explicit policies for how to handle money and how to distribute assets, these laws may be considered “old-fashioned” by others.
The world is evolving. Women are growing more independent. Beneficiaries may have financial priorities that don’t line up with religious texts.
Luckily, Muslims in America have developed businesses and programs that help to create an estate plan that doesn’t compromise morals. Islamic Wills and My Wassiyah are just two examples of organizations that help American Muslims create an estate plan with their religious tenets in mind.
Talk to a Florida Estate Planning Attorney
Do not be afraid to bring up your faith or assumptions about estate planning to an attorney. These discussions can help give your attorney some context to create the best estate planning strategy for your family. While America prefers to keep organized religion and legal processes separate, you can still find a compromise with the help of an estate planning professional.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
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