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New guidance issued on Sharia wills

The body that represents solicitors in England and Wales has issued pioneering guidance to its members to assist them in work involving Sharia law succession rules, including the drafting of wills.

This is the first time guidance has been published for solicitors to assist them with succession rules under Sharia law, the code of law derived from the Quran.

Clients in England and Wales can legally choose to bequeath their assets according to Sharia rules, providing their will is signed in accordance with requirements set out in the Wills Act 1837.

The Law Society’s guidance focuses on the Sunni rules and its procedure for directing inheritances.

The society said that solicitors drafting a Sharia-compliant will needed to take three key steps that are significantly different to traditional probate processes. Firstly, the cost of the burial and any debts must be paid. Secondly, a third of the estate may be given to charities or individuals who are not obligatory heirs. Finally, the remainder is given to a defined set of “primary” and then “residual” heirs.

It said the main difficulty for solicitors preparing a Sharia-compliant will was the inability to state in advance who the Sharia heirs would be, as their identity and respective entitlements could only be determined at the date of the death of the person making the will.

Issuing the guidance on 13 March, Nicholas Fluck, president of the Law Society, said: “This is the first time such advice has been published and we hope it will assist solicitors with Sharia probate matters.

“’There is a wide variety of spiritual, religious and cultural beliefs within our population and the Law Society wants to support its members so they can help clients from all backgrounds.

‘We hope this guidance will help solicitors assist their clients and go some way to forming an idea of good practice when it comes to applying Sharia succession rules within the legal profession.”