You Can’t Take It With You…

So, dying is one of those subjects we all prefer to leave for another day.  After all, who wants to think about things like what will happen to the kids, what will happen to the money, etc.?  Nearly everyone would prefer to pretend that it will never happen to us, wouldn’t we?  However, living in a country like Jordan gives you a different perspective on this topic.  In the US, will-writing is encouraged.  And once you have kids, it’s incumbent on you to provide for them by leaving your wishes well documented. After all, in a country of individual liberty, you can do anything you want with your accumulated stuff when you die.

There are those who take this so literally that they leave their money to their pets   Here are five such stories.  Now, is this taking it to an extreme?  Of course.  But most Americans take for granted that you can leave anything you want to anyone you want.  If you have a granddaughter who shares your name, leave her the family heirloom bracelet with the name on it.  If your niece shares your love of antiques, give her your 1930 Ford.  Basically, distribute your assets in any way you like after you go by writing a will.  This includes things (as small as a ring and as big as a house) and money.

So, what about Jordan makes you think so hard?  Well, that’s an interesting question.  In Jordan, whether you are Muslim or Christian you adhere to Sharia for distribution of assets after your demise.  And trust me, what made sense back in 630 AD doesn’t necessarily make sense today…  You can write a will if you would like, but the courts will totally ignore it as it has no legal standing.  So, what does that mean?  Well, for us it means that should something happen to El 3atal, I would get 1/8 of the assets that we have worked hard to build.  His parents would also each get 1/6 of the assets.  Whatever remains is divided amongst our children.  Our son would get 2/4 of the remainder and the girls would each get 1/4 (he gets twice what they do).  As untenable as I personally find this distribution on its own, it’s worse if there are only girls.

In that case, after I get 1/8 and the girls get a share, his mom gets 1/6, the remainder goes to his brother.  Do the double take, yep that’s right.  No men in line, we’ve gotta find one, or something like that… Sigh.  If you are very lucky, the men in the family are good, stand-up guys, and provide the assets to the wife and/or daughters.  If not… well.  So, we’re lucky we had a son.  Thank goodness as I would definitely find this skipping my girls for their Uncle to be completely unacceptable.

As you can imagine, I prefer to have as many assets as possible in America where we can choose the appropriate way for them to be distributed.  After all, if El 3atal and I work jointly to build a family and a life, to earn money and living, why in the world would I not have full use of that money?  And why wouldn’t he?  The surviving spouse still has a life to maintain and taking any of the assets available for that away makes no sense at all to me.

Back in the time that this was written, I actually get where it was coming from.  At that time, the male family members actually were not only expected to, but required to (at the very least societally) take care of the female members.  So, his brothers would get a share because they would be taking in and taking care of his wife and children.  No worries.  His parents would get a share to offset the amount he would be responsible for in their upkeep.  But these days, society doesn’t work that way.  Unfortunately, the laws haven’t changed with the times.  And even more unfortunately, as Christians we must follow a law that has no bearing and makes no sense in our practice of faith.  Just call me hopeful that the voice in the wilderness calling for Christians to be able to leave a will to counteract this unacceptable distribution is successful.  After all, if I make the money, shouldn’t I decide what happens to it after I’m gone?

Happy Willingness!

18 thoughts on “You Can’t Take It With You…

  1. Dear as far as I know there are some recommendations from Christians to change these laws and let the Christians decide on their wills for their children. Let us hope that the new laws that are being implemented now and the new changes in Jordan will involve something for the Christians. You are indeed right and it should be for the husband and wife to decide and why shouldn’t girls get their share as well, fully agree… well written.

  2. Just a to clarify a wee bit, there is a bit more to consider in dividing up the estate (This is actually a huge body of Islamic jurisprudence) If my husband and I had only one daughter, she would receive 1/2 of the estate, I would receive 1/8, and four surviving brothers would receive 1/12 each, with one sister receiving 1/24. If we had 3 daughters, they would receive 2/9 of the estate, I would receive 1/8, and the brothers/sisters would receive 5/108 and 5/216 respectively. I know that sounds like convoluted arithmetic, but the brothers’ share is comparatively really not high if the husband leaves no male heir. Of course, the right thing to do is for those brothers and/or surviving parents of the deceased to relinquish that share of inheritance and help the widow as much as possible. I know that much heartache has taken place unnecessarily because of the greed and misuse of these laws.

    I also think that Christians residing in Jordan, since you are allowed your own divorce proceedings/laws, should absolutely be allowed to have your own inheritance laws. This is news to me, and does not make sense. Bequeath to whom you will.

    • Umm Farouq, I know that it is significantly complicated. Frankly I would prefer not to have to care just how complicated it is ;). I’m glad we have a boy and that much of our assets are in the US. My personal approach is to have as much outside of the country as possible to make any division as clean as possible. Frankly, in this day and age, I tend to be fully on the side of community property states. The wife should have all of the assets to ensure that she can continued to care for the kids. But that’s just my thought on the matter. Sigh.

  3. From North Carolina

    Actually, your husband can sell you anything he has in his name for whatever amount you agree upon thus making sure that your share is whatever the two of you agree is appropriate. It is only after death that Sharia takes over. In our family, our sister gets an equal share to us boys but that’s just our family.

    • Joe, indeed. The challenge is that if you don’t know he’s going to die, then he can’t sell anything before that… And if he does sell it and the wife dies first, it doesn’t all go back to him, right? So, while he’s in a much better position, he’s still left putting life back together without all of the assets. And while your family may have a side agreement and may actually hold to it, should we be legally bound to hoping that all of the family members will honor it. Color me frustrated… sigh again.

  4. This was a surprising post for me. I knew it vaguely, but when putting people’s names and faces in the blanks, whew. How many working women, who lived in full partnership with husbands, would get so very little.

  5. Which is why I am an advocate of husbands putting property, assets, accounts, etc., in their wives’ names, so that the asset is never “his” to begin with and nothing can fall into dispute.

    • Umm F, Speaking of complications… Your thought was my initial thought. Then El 3atal mentioned that without kids mom’s brothers share in the inheritance or some such. In addition to her parents… So all in all, not an adequate solution either. The bottom line is that a solution needs to be found that makes it appropriate for modern times, especially for those who are subject to it with no other options…

  6. I knew the issue of inheritance was complicated in the Middle East, but all these numbers and figures makes it even more confusing and I am very sorry for anyone being put in this type of situation. It is an unequal set of laws and makes women and girls depending on male family members which is so far from fair as anything can be in the 21st century. Argh! I am glad you have the resources to put your assets in foreign accounts – but I cannot help but think about all the women out there who do not have the same options.

    • Naddoush, indeed. That’s it exactly. It’s not that we have the resources to put our assets abroad, but the happenstance that we moved from abroad so our retirement accounts and such are, by definition, there. However our business is here and our personal assets are here. So, we deal with it as well. The real reason it needs to be dealt with is the women who are living here and stuck without options. For me, it’s a problem and a challenge. For them, it may be the end of life as they know it… Sigh.

      • Definitely – they are the ones who will suffer in case something happens. If their husbands – god forbit – should die and they don’t have nice and reasonable relatives and in-laws, then they will have to change their lives around completely. And they will be forever depending on others. I wouldn’t wish that for my worst enemy. Freedom to make your own choices in life.

  7. Here is an opportunity for men to be men! What the law says is one thing, but what is done behind the scenes is another. If something happens to your husband, then his parents would each get 1/6, if they were (no insult intended) truely beleivers in fairness, they would give 1/6 each back to the kids. Your BIL, would give his “back” to you. They say money changes people, hopefully men and women and the right thing to do will prevail and you and your kids will get what you so rightfully deserve. Do you think you son would actually take his and run off? 😉

    • Anon, given that my son is very young, no. But, that’s not so much the point is it? Since our marriage, I have worked. When we founded a company, I worked to build it. I’ve worked as hard as El 3atal, but I’m not entitled to half of my money? That’s where my true issue is. While I don’t agree with the unequal distribution of assets, truly my largest issue is that the wife should inherit the husband and vice versa. After that, well, that should be between the people…

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