In the absence of a will, the inheritance of surviving relatives, where the deceased is a Sunni man, who was survived by his mother and father, a wife, son and three daughters; in the presence of a will, whether Pakistan inheritance law would override any aspect of the will (2005) [PAK43418.E]

According to information provided to the Research Directorate on 15 March 2005 by a Karachi-based lawyer, when a Sunni man dies, his estate is divided among his surviving mother and father, a wife, a son, and three daughters as follows:

  • No. of Shares
  • Mother
  • 1/6 (20/120)
  • Father
  • 1/6 (20/120)
  • Widow
  • 1/8 (15/120
  • Son
  • 13/60 (26/120)
  • Daughter One
  • 13/120 (13/120)
  • Daughter Two
  • 13/120 (13/120)
  • Daughter Three
  • 13/120 (13/120)

The lawyer added that the Muslim law (Pakistan law) that regulates wills and inheritance is unlike English law (15 Mar. 2005.). The lawyer explained that:

A. A bequest to an heir is not valid unless the other heirs consent to the bequest after the death of [the] testator. Any single heir may consent as to bind his own share. (Section 117 of Muhammadan Law by Mulla).

Shia Law general position:

A testator may leave a legacy to an heir so long as it does not exceed one third of his estate. Consent of heirs is required only if it exceeds one third and it may be given either before or after the death of the testator.
B.A Muhammadan cannot by will dispose of more than a third of the surplus of his estate after payment of funeral expenses and debts. Bequest in excess of the legal third cannot take effect, unless the heirs consent thereto after the death of the testator. [Section 118 of Muhammadan Law by Mulla (Ref: Hidaya 671-Baillie 625)].

Shia Law general position:

Under the Shia Law, the consent necessary to validate a bequest exceeding the legal limit may be given either before or after the death of the testator (15 Mar. 2005).

After consulting with several lawyers, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) provided the following information to the Research Directorate on 17 March 2005:

Essentially the Sunni laws of inheritance are fairly complex. A lot depends on who precisely the heirs are -- e.g. if a wife/widow has children, she gets a smaller share than a wife without children, as it is assumed the children would care for their mother etc. All the laws are derived from the Holy Quran, so it goes back rather a long way.
Wills, essentially, are not common, and are not encouraged. As per Muslim Inheritance laws, which hold sway in Pakistan, a person can will 1/3 of his/her property, but no more. In practicality, a will, if left, is sometimes 'honoured' by the heirs, even if more is willed, and is sometimes not. The law restricts willing more than a third.

Information provided by the Karachi-based lawyer above, was corroborated, with minor contrasting points, by the HRCP, which stated that in a case where a Sunni man has died, and has left behind his mother and father, a wife, a son, and three daughters, the mother and father would each be entitled to one-sixth of the estate, the wife would be entitled to one-eighth (since she has children, and one-fourth if there were no children), two-thirds of the estate would be given to the daughters and would be divided among them equally and half of the estate, or twice the share of the female children, would be given to the son (17 Mar. 2005). The HRCP added that a matter of practicality, if a person wishes to give a larger share of property to a particular person -- e.g. a widowed or divorced daughter, a favourite son etc. -- he can do so by 'gifting' the property in his/her lifetime, that is putting it in the name of the person concerned. The law allows considerable liberty in this, though all property put in the name of a single child, or another relative, could be contested as 'unfair' (17 Mar. 2005).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. 17 March 2005. Correspondence from the Joint Director.

Lawyer, Karachi. 15 March 2005. Correspondence.

Additional Sources Consulted

The High Commission of Pakistan, in Ottawa, did not respond to a letter requesting information.

A Karachi-based lawyer did not respond to a letter requesting information.

Associated documents