38 We Have Divided Inheritance Into Seven Categories #20

The Baha'i laws of inheritance apply only in case of intestacy, that is,

when the individual dies without leaving a will. In the Kitab-i-Aqdas (

109), Baha'u'llah instructs every believer to write a will. He elsewhere

clearly states that the individual has full jurisdiction over his property

and is free to determine the manner in which his or her estate is to be

divided and to designate, in the will, those, whether Baha'i or

non-Baha'i, who should inherit (Q and A 69). In this connection, a letter

written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi explains that:

...even though a Baha'i 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 Baha'u'llah 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.

This verse of the Aqdas introduces a lengthy passage in which Baha'u'llah

elaborates the Baha'i law of inheritance. In reading this passage one

should bear in mind that the law is formulated with the presumption that

the deceased is a man; its provisions apply, mutatis mutandis, when the

deceased is a woman.

The system of inheritance which provides for distribution of the

deceased's estate among seven categories of heirs (children, spouse,

father, mother, brothers, sisters, and teachers) is based on the

provisions set out by the Bab in the Bayan. The major features of the

Baha'i laws of inheritance in the case of intestacy are:

1. If the deceased is a father and his estate includes a personal

residence, such residence passes to the eldest son (Q and A 34).

2. If the deceased has no male descendants, two thirds of the residence

pass to his female descendants and the remaining third passes 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.)

3. The remainder of the estate is divided among the seven categories of

heirs. For details of the number of shares to be received by each group,

see Questions and Answers, number 5, and Synopsis and Codification,

section IV.C.3.a.

4. 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


5. In cases where there is no issue, the share of the children reverts to

the House of Justice (Q and A 7, 41).

6. Should one leave offspring, but either part or all of the other

categories of heirs be non-existent, two thirds of their shares revert to

the offspring and one third to the House of Justice (Q and A 7).

7. Should none of the specified categories exist, two thirds of the estate

revert to the nephews and nieces of the deceased. If these do not exist,

the same shares revert to the aunts and uncles; lacking these, to their

sons and daughters. In any case the remaining third reverts to the House

of Justice.

8. Should one leave none of the aforementioned heirs, the entire estate

reverts to the House of Justice.

9. Baha'u'llah states that non-Baha'is have no right to inherit from their

Baha'i parents or relatives (Q and A 34). Shoghi Effendi in a letter

written on his behalf indicates that this restriction applies only to

such cases when a Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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

Baha'i to provide for his or her non-Baha'i partner, children or relatives

by leaving a will.

Additional details of the laws of inheritance are summarized in the

Synopsis and Codification, section IV.C.3.a.-o.

38 38: O Son Of Being! Walk In My Statutes For Love Of Me And Deny Thyself facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail