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In a previous article, Taking Care of your Will and Testament, I failed to mention the laws of inheritance outlined in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, and I’m grateful to the reader who pointed it out.  Rather than add it to that article, I decided it deserved a posting all of its own.

First of all, it’s important to know 3 things:

  • This law is not applicable yet and is normally covered by civil laws
  • It only applies when the individual dies without making a will
  • We now have and will always have complete freedom in determining how to dispose of our property, whether it be to Baha’is or non-Baha’is, provided we make provisions for the payment of Huqúqu’lláh and the discharge of our debts

Nevertheless, it could be important to understand this law, knowing it will soon be applicable.  There may be elements you’d want to include in your own Will.

Shoghi Effendi tells us:

  …even though a Bahá’í is permitted in his will to dispose of his wealth in the way he wishes, yet he is morally and conscientiously bound to always bear in mind, while writing his will, the necessity of his upholding the principle of Bahá’u’lláh regarding the social function of wealth, and the consequent necessity of avoiding its over-accumulation and concentration in a few individuals or groups of individuals. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, quoted by the Universal House of Justice in ‘The Notes section of the Kitab-i-Aqdas’)

The system of inheritance in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is based on the provisions written by the Bab and provides for the distribution of the deceased’s estate among seven categories of heirs:

According to the Book of God, the estate of the deceased is divided into 2,520 shares, which number is the lowest common multiple of all integers up to nine, and these shares are then distributed into seven portions, each of which is allocated, as mentioned in the Book, to a particular category of heirs. (Q and A 5)

  1. children receive 1,080 out of 2,520 shares (nine parts)
  2. the spouse receives 390 out of 2,520 shares (eight parts)
  3. the father, 330 out of 2,520 shares (seven parts)
  4. the mother, 270 out of 2,520 shares (six parts)
  5. the brothers, 210 out of 2,520 shares (five parts)
  6. the sisters, 150 out of 2,520 shares (four parts)
  7. the [Baha’i] teachers, 90 out of 2,520 shares (three parts) (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)

When some of these people don’t exist or have passed away, this is what happens:

  • In cases where there is no issue the share of the children reverts to the House of Justice to be expended on orphans and widows and for whatever will profit mankind. (Q and A 7, 41)
  • If the son of the deceased be dead and leave issue, these will inherit the share of their father. If the deceased is a father and his estate includes a personal residence, such residence passes to the eldest son (Q and A 34).
  • If the daughter of the deceased be dead and leave issue, her share will have to be divided into the seven categories specified in the Most Holy Book. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
  • Should one leave offspring but either part or all of the other categories of inheritors be nonexistent, two thirds of their shares reverts to the offspring and one third to the House of Justice. (Q and A 7).
  • Should none of the specified beneficiaries exist, two thirds of the inheritance reverts to the nephews and nieces of the deceased. If these do not exist, the same share reverts to the aunts and uncles; lacking these, to their sons and daughters. In any case the remaining third reverts to the House of Justice. (Q and A 34).
  • Should one leave none of the aforementioned heirs, the entire inheritance reverts to the House of Justice. (Q and A 34).
  • The residence and the personal clothing of the deceased father pass to the male not to the female offspring. If there be several residences the principal and most important one passes to the male offspring. The remaining residences will together with the other possessions of the deceased have to be divided among the heirs. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
  • If there be no male offspring two thirds of the principal residence and the personal clothing of the deceased father will revert to the female issue and one third to the House of Justice. (Q and A 41, 72). See note 42 concerning the levels of the institution of the House of Justice to which this law applies. (See also note 44.)
  • In the case of the deceased mother all her used clothing is to be equally divided amongst her daughters. Her unworn clothing, jewels and property must be divided among her heirs, as well as her used clothing if she leaves no daughter. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
  • Should the children of the deceased be minors their share should either be entrusted to a reliable person or to a company for purposes of investment, until they attain the age of maturity. A share of the interest accrued should be assigned to the trustee. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
  • The inheritance should not be divided until after the payment of the Huqúqu’lláh (The Right of God), of any debts contracted by the deceased and of any expenses incurred for a befitting funeral and burial. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
  • If the brother of the deceased is from the same father he will inherit his full allotted share. If he is from another father he will inherit only two thirds of his share, the remaining one third reverting to the House of Justice. The same law is applicable to the sister of the deceased. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
  • In case there are full brothers or full sisters, brothers and sisters from the mother’s side do not inherit. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
  • In case there is more than one heir in any category the share allotted to that class should be divided between them equally, be they male or female. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
  • A non-Bahá’í teacher does not inherit. If there should be more than one teacher, the share allotted to the teacher is to be equally divided among them. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
  • Non-Bahá’í heirs do not inherit. (Q and A 34).
  • Aside from the wife’s used clothing and gifts of jewellery or otherwise which have been proven to have been given her by her husband, whatever the husband has purchased for his wife are to be considered as the husband’s possessions to be divided among his heirs. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)

Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf indicates that this restriction applies “only to such cases when a Bahá’í dies without leaving a will and when, therefore, his property will have to be divided in accordance with the rules set forth in the Aqdas. Otherwise, a Bahá’í is free to bequeath his property to any person, irrespective of religion, provided however he leaves a will, specifying his wishes.” It is always possible, therefore, for a Bahá’í to provide for his or her non-Bahá’í partner, children or relatives by leaving a will.  (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas 1992 edition, p. 254)

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