Inheritance: A complicated question of inheritance

Q273 :When my father-in-law died, he left behind two wives, one of them non-Muslim with one son and one daughter. He also had two sons and three daughters by his second Muslim wife. His second wife bought a house and registered it in her name after his death. She subsequently died. My father-in-law had also two properties, the first registered in his two wives' names and the second in their two elder sons' names. The first wife's son demands a 50 percent share of all three properties. A lawyer has told me that the first wife's children do not have any shares in these properties. I will be grateful for your advice on how these properties be shared out.

A273 : You seem to imply that all three properties belong to your father-in-law in spite of their registration in various names. You have to establish that either through the agreement of all heirs, or by some other proof. If you cannot, then the house which is registered in the two eldest sons' names will remain theirs and each of them will be able to take his share. If they have given pledge to their late father that they would be looking after their brothers and sisters, then they must do that. Obviously, there is no court which will be able to enforce that without their cooperation. If they claim that the house belongs to them, they have a legal evidence. The Prophet has warned against this in a very serious manner. He says; "I am only a human being and you put your disputes to me. Some of you may have a stronger argument than that of his brother. If I give him something which belongs by right to his brother, I am only giving him a brand of fire which he may take or leave." Here the two eldest sons have that strong argument. If their father had placed them in this position so that they will ensure that their brothers and sisters will have their fair shares and they refuse to do that, they are unfaithful to their trust. I understand that both wives are now dead. This complicates matter immensely, particularly with regard to the first property which is registered in their two names. Perhaps the best thing that could happen here is an agreement by all children of your father-in-law by his two late wives, that the property belonged in reality to him, and therefore, it should be divided among his heirs. If they do not agree and a court will decide on the inheritance of that property, the following will happen. One half of the property which is in the name of the Muslim wife will be inherited by her five children on the basis of one share for each daughter and two shares for each son. This assumes that your later mother-in-law did not have any other heirs, such as her parents. The other half of the property which was registered by the non-Muslim wife of your father-in-law could not be inherited by her children, because her children are Muslims, following their father's religion. Therefore, it is to be inherited by her non-Muslim relatives. The third property is even more problematic. There are two possibilities here: If the price of that property was equal to or less than the share of your late mother-in-law in her husband's inheritance: A wife whose husband has children, inherits only one eighth of her husband's property. If he has more than one wife, then the wives' share altogether will be one eighth. But because the other wife was a non-Muslim, she does not inherit anything from her husband. The Prophet says that the followers of two different religion do not inherit from one another. As I have already mentioned, her children do not inherit from her because they are Muslims and she was not. Nor does she inherit from her husband or from her children if she survived them. Therefore, your late mother-in-law's share was one eighth of the full property of her husband. If that was sufficient to buy the house, then we consider it as her own property and it goes to her own children. The other children of your late father-in-law do not take any part of this house. This sharing here is a one seventh share of each of the two sons. This assumes that she had no other heirs. Her parents would have inherited from her as well if they had survived her. The other possibility is that the price of the property was larger than your late mother-in-law's share: In this case, the best thing is to turn that property to your father-in-law's estate which should be shared by his heirs. The claim of the first wife's son for a 50 percent share of everything is inadmissible. You will have to explain to him that the sharing of inheritance has been pre-determined by Allah. In this case, whatever is finally agreed to be part of your father-in-law's estate should be shared out in the following manner: One eighth to his second wife. She receives her share because she survived her husband. The remainder goes to all children by both marriages. Altogether, he had three sons and four daughters surviving him. The rest of his property, i.e. after payment of one eighth to his Muslim wife, should be divided to ten shares, giving one share to each of the daughters and two shares to each of the three sons. Again this assumes that neither of your father-in-law's parents had survived him. If either did, then they receive one sixth share each before dividing the remainder among his children. There is further division to be made, - that of the share of your late mother-in-law. She is inherited only by her own children, not by the children of the first wife. If neither of her parents is alive, her property is divided into seven shares, giving one to each daughter and two shares to each son.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )