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Q. Discuss the nature and meaning of will. What are the essentials of a valid muslim will? Who can make a will? What are the formalities necessary for a valid will? What restrictions are imposed on a Muslim's testamentary disposition? Explain. Distinguish between shia and sunni laws regarding will.

Will is the Anglo Mohammedan word for Wasiyat. Generally, Wasiyat means will, but also has other meanings. It may signify a moral exhortation, a specific legacy, or the capacity of the executor. In general, a will means a document containing the desire, regarding how a person wants to utilize or divide his property, after he is dead. According to section 2(h) of Indian Succession Act 1925,  Will is the legal declaration of the intention of a testator with respect to his property which he desires to be carried into effect after his death.

For a Muslim, Wasiyat is a divine institution because it is regulated by Quran. It offers to the testator a means to change the course of inheritance to certain extent and to recognize the value of those relatives who are excluded from inheritance or strangers who might have helped him in life or in last moments. Prophet Mohammad has declared that this power is not unrestricted and should not be exercised to the injury of the lawful heirs.

Essentials of a valid Muslim will
  1. Competency of the testator (who can make the will)
    Any Muslim, including a man or a woman, who is major and is of sound mind can make a will. Regarding wills, the age of majority is governed by Indian Majority Act. A will made by a minor is invalid but it can be validated by ratification after he attains majority. A person of unsound mind is not competent to make a will and a will made by such a person is invalid. A will made by a person while of sound mind, who later becomes of unsound mind, becomes invalid.
    In Abdul Manan Khan vs Mirtuza Khan AIR 1991, Patna HC held that any Mohammadan having a sound mind and not a minor may make a valid will to dispose off the property. So far as a deed is concerned, no formality or a particular form is required in law for the purpose of creating a valid will. An unequivocal expression by the testator serves the purpose.
    Will of a person committing suicide -
    Under Sunni Law the will of a person committing suicide is valid. Under Shia law, a will made by the person who has done any act towards committing suicide is invalid but if the will is made before doing of any act towards committing suicide, it is valid.
  2. Competency of the legatee
    Any person capable of holding property may be the legatee under a will. Thus, sex, age, creed, or religion are no bar. However, no one can be made the beneficial owner of the shares against his will, therefore, to complete the transfer, the legatee must give his express or implied consent to accepting the legacy.
    An institution can be a legatee.
    A non-muslim can be a legatee if he is not an enemy of Islam and is not hostile towards Islam.
    In Sunni law, a testator's murderer cannot be a legatee. In Shia law, if the act of the murderer was an accident, he can be a legatee otherwise not.
    Unborn person - In Sunni Law, a child born within 6 months of the date of making of the will is considered to be in existence and is a valid legatee. In Shia law, the period is 10 months, which is the maximum period of gestation.
    Bequest for a charitable object is valid.
  3. Validity of the subject of will - To be able to will a property, it must be -
    1. capable of being transferred.
    2. in existence at the time of testator's death even if it is not in existence at the time of making will. Thus, a bequest cannot be made of any thing that is to be performed or produced in future.
    3. in the ownership of the testator.
    A bequest that is to take effect only upon any uncertain event happening is a contingent bequest, and is void.  However, a bequest with a condition that derogates from its completeness is valid and will take effect as if the condition did not exist. For example, a grant is made to X for his life and then it is stipulated to go to Y after death of X. In this case, X will get the grant completely and Y will get nothing. Thus, a bequest of life estate is not valid either under Shia or Sunni Law.
  4. Extent of power of will - The testamentary power of a muslim is limited in two ways - 
    Limitations as regards to person - The general rule is laid down in Ghulam Mohammad vs Ghulam Hussain 1932 by Allahbad HC, that a bequest in favour of a heir is not valid unless the other heirs consent to the bequest after the death of the testator. Whether a person is a heir or not is determined at the time of testator's death.
    Under Shia law, a testator may bequest a heir as long as it does not exceed one third of his property and no consent of other heirs is required. In Hussaini Begam vs Mohammad Mehdi 1927, it was held that if all the property was bequested to one heir and other were not given anything, the bequest was void in its entirety.
    Limitations as regard to the amount - The general principle is that a muslim is not allowed to will more than 1/3rd of his property after taking out funeral charges and debt. However, under Hanafi law, it may be valid if heirs give the consent after the death of the testator. In Shia law, such consent can be taken either before or after the death. Another exception is that if the testator has no heir, he can will any amount. The govt. cannot act as a heir to the heirless person.
Differences between Shia and Sunni Law on Will
Sunni Law Shia Law
Bequest to an heir without consent of other heirs is invalid. Bequest up to 1/3 of the property is valid even without consent. 
Bequest to unborn child is valid if the child is born within 6 months of making the will.
Valid if the child is born within 10 months of making the will.
Legatee who causes death even by accident is incapable of receiving.
Legatee who causes death by accident is capable.
For a bequest of more than 1/3 to a non-heir, the consent of heir must be obtained after the death of testator. Heir's consent may be obtained before or after death.
Will of a person committing suicide is valid. Valid only if the will is made before the person does any act towards committing suicide.
Recognizes rateable distribution.
Does not recognize rateable distribution.
If the legatee dies before testator, the legacy lapses and goes back to the testator. The legacy lapses only if the legatee dies without heirs otherwise, it goes to legatee's heirs.
Legatee must accept the legacy after the death of the testator. Legatee can accept the legacy even before the death of the testator.

Differences between Will and Gift
Gift Will
It is an immediate transfer of right or interest. It is a transfer after death. 
Delivery of possession is necessary.
Delivery of possession is not necessary.
Subject of gift must exist at the time of making gift. Subject of will must exist at the time of death of the testator.
Right of donor is unrestricted. It is limited up to 1/3rd of the property.
Cannot be revoked.
Can be revoked by making another will.