Administration of Muslim Law Act
This is an Act (commonly known as AMLA) relating to Muslims and to make provision for regulating Muslim religious affairs and to constitute a council to advise on matters relating to the Muslim religion in Singapore and a Syariah Court. There are 146 sections and 3 schedules in this Act.
The relevant sections that have implications on estate planning for Muslim domicile in Singapore are:
Section 111: Disposition by will, etc., to in accordance with Muslim law
This section has to be read and interpreted carefully. Section 111(1) wrote:
“…no Muslim domiciled in Singapore shall, after 1st July 1968, dispose of his property by will, or by any nomination under Section 49M(2) of the Insurance Act (Cap 142), except in accordance with the provisions of and subject to the restrictions imposed by the school of Muslim law professed by him.”
A. Restrictions impose on a Muslim to dispose his property by will
A Muslim can write a will (i.e. Wasiyyah), but he is restricted to will only 1/3 (source: Hadith) of his net-estate to non-legal heirs, but these people must be Muslim. The rest of the 2/3 of the net-estate must be distributed in accordance to Faraid (Muslim intestacy law).
There are some school of thoughts that allow non-legal heirs who are non-Muslims to inherit the 1/3 net-estate under Wasiyyah. For example a Muslim convert will 1/3 of his net-estate to his biological mother who is a non-Muslim.
There are also other school of thoughts that follow “Berlain Agama” (i.e. Religious Contrariety) which says “as a rule, only people of the Islam religion are allowed to inherit a deceased Muslim’s property. The following translation of the Hadith stresses on this point: “A Muslim cannot inherit an unbeliever and an unbeliever will not inherit a believer.” This principle can be found in the case, Timah binti Abdullah, 1941.” (Source: Estate Planning II- Complex Issues – Simple Solutions in Malaysia & Singapore, 2002, Lim Yuen Seong)
B. Restrictions impose on a Muslim to nominate his life policy via S49M(2) of the Insurance Act
A Muslim is permissible to nominate a beneficiary in his life insurance policy via S49M of the Insurance Act. But this has to be done in according to Islamic principles. In a Fatwa issued by Fatwa (Legal) Committee Islamic Religious Council of Singapore in 2nd Feb 2012, the Fatwa committee has decided that S49M revocable insurance nomination is the same as CPF nomination. And both are accepted as valid forms of hibah.
In nominating his life policy, a Muslim needs to be mindful that:
- The nomination must not be done with the intention of causing injustice towards other beneficiaries.
- Every Muslim is responsible to ensure that all the debts of a deceased Muslim are settled before using any of his/her monies that he/she leaves behind, whether by way of Faraid, will or nomination.
Section 112: Distribution of Muslim estate to be according to Muslim law
This law states that any Muslim person domiciled in Singapore dying intestate, the estate and effects shall be distributed according to the Muslim law. The Muslim intestacy law, known as Faraid, is very different with the normal intestacy law (i.e. Intestate Succession Act) in the classification and entitlements of the beneficiaries.
This law shall apply in cases where a person dies partly intestate as well as in cases where he dies wholly intestate [Section 112(2)].
Another important point is that the court may make an order for the division of the harta sepencarian or jointly acquired property in such proportions as to the court seems fit [Section 112(3)].
Section 113: Application for probate and letters of administration
All applications for probate or letters of administration the affidavit supporting the application shall, in the case of a deceased Muslim, state the school of law (Mazhab) which the deceased professed in addition to the particulars required by any other written law.
Section 114: Proof of Muslim law
In deciding questions of succession and inheritance in the Muslim law, the court shall be at liberty to accept as proof of the Muslim law made in all or any of the list of books in Section 114(1)(a – g). Two examples of these books are:
a. The English translation of the Quaran, by A. Yusuf Ali or Marmaduke Pickthall;
b. Muhammadan Law, by F.B. Tyabji.
Section 115: Inheritance certificate
The Syariah court shall certify the entitlement of beneficiaries to the estate of a deceased Muslim person. This is based on the facts submitted by the any person claiming to be a beneficiary and on payment of a prescribed fee. An inheritance certificate shall be issued by the Syariah court.
Section 116: Administration of husband’s estate
If a Muslim man dies intestate leaving a widow or widows, the court may grant letters of administration to any other next-of-kin or person under the Faraid, either to the exclusion of the widow or widows, or jointly with such widow or widows, or any one or more of such widows.
Section 117: Administration of wife’s estate
If a Muslim woman dies intestate leaving property of her own and male children above 21 years old, letters of administration to her estate shall be granted in the following preference:
- Male children,
- Next nearest of kin according to the Muslim law.
Preference shall be given to male over female relationship of the same degree in the above cases.
Children of the husband by other wives shall not be considered as next-of-kin to the deceased intestate wife; and they will not be entitled to a grant of letters of administration to her estate and effects.
Section 118: Will of married woman
Subject to section 111, Muslim married women may, with or without the concurrence of their husbands, by will dispose of their own property.