Passing away is an inevitable fact of life, the only uncertainty being when it will actually transpire. This reality is more important now than ever, given the devastating number of deaths caused by COVID-19, and highlights our responsibility to have a valid Will in place, ensuring the financial well-being of those we leave behind.
This is the view of Ms Rooksana Safaat, Al Baraka Bank's Head of Legal, who stressed: “Having a Shariah-compliant Will is critical in ensuring that an individual’s assets are dealt with and distributed in line with the Islamic Laws of inheritance. Equally important, when drawing up a Will, is the requirement to nominate a qualified and trusted Executor of your choice, because passing away intestate creates many difficulties, particularly because your estate will not be administered according to your wishes, but will be administered according to the laws of the country, in terms of the Intestate Succession Act 1987.”
She added: “With the COVID-19 pandemic entering its third year and with almost 100 000 Corona Virus deaths in South Africa to date, people are quite rightly worried about their health and, therefore, this is an opportune time to put one’s personal affairs in order. Now is the time, more than ever, to give thought to one’s estate and to secure a valid Shariah-compliant Will.”
Having a Shariah-compliant Will is exceptionally important for our Muslim community, ensuring that the Testator’s wishes are followed in accordance with religious responsibilities and thus avoiding an individual's estate being distributed in accordance with South African law.
Ms Safaat said: "Passing away intestate has consequences for Muslims, both in this world and the hereafter. Not only will you not be in control of who is appointed as your Executor, but more importantly, your assets will be distributed in accordance with South African law and the Intestate Succession Act, which is totally contrary to Shariah. This is why it is important that Muslims prepare and hold a valid and Shariah-compliant Islamic Will."
The nomination of an Executor is regarded as a critical feature of a Will. The nominated Executor, who must be appointed by the Master of the High Court, is responsible for administering and distributing the estate in line with the testamentary wishes of the deceased.
“An Executor ensures that your property is distributed in line with the terms of your Will and assumes responsibility for collecting and accounting for your assets upon your passing and for settling any outstanding debts the individual may have at the time of death. Whilst it is possible to nominate a family member as Executor, the roles and responsibilities are onerous and require impartiality and diligence at an emotionally difficult time,” said Ms Safaat.
She added: “Deceased estates vary in size and complexity making the role of Executor a very important one. Accordingly, if a nominated Executor is unable to undertake these onerous responsibilities, that individual may decline the nomination or withdraw from the process at any time. Therefore, seeking legal advice and appointing a qualified Executor, who is well-versed and experienced with administering estates is highly recommended.”
By having a Shariah-compliant Will in place, together with the nomination of an appropriate Executor of your choice ensures that the testator's wishes are followed, in accordance with the deceased’s religious responsibilities.
Al Baraka Bank, as a financial institution which works in partnership with its clients and the diverse communities it serves, believes it has an obligation to highlight the importance of Islamic Wills and to ensuring the financial well-being of those left behind upon the death of an individual.
“We understand that preparing for one’s demise is extremely difficult, but something as important as this cannot be neglected,” said Ms Safaat.Al Baraka Bank has, therefore, made the process very simple and provided an easy means for people wanting to draw up a Shariah-compliant Islamic Will. Go to www.myislamicwill.co.za and download a template, or visit any branch of the bank to obtain a pre-printed version.