Joint tenancy contracts now religiously valid for Muslims

Muslims who co-own a property in Singapore under a joint tenancy contract will now have that agreement recognised as religiously valid, without the hassle of additional paperwork.

This means that when one of the owners dies, the surviving owner can automatically absorb the former's share of the property - known as the right of survivorship - without having to present documents.

The Fatwa Committee of Singapore issued the fatwa, or religious advisory, yesterday, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) said in a press release.

Joint owners of a property may select either joint tenancy or tenancy-in-common contracts.

Under the latter, each co-owner owns a separate share of the property which is passed on to a beneficiary upon his or her death in line with Islamic inheritance law. In a joint tenancy, the share of the late co-owner goes to the other co-owner.

"The Fatwa Committee advises prospective home owners to consider carefully both options and understand fully the implications on the surviving joint tenant, as well as beneficiaries," Muis said, noting that a joint tenancy contract is "typically the better option as it safeguards the interest of one's immediate family in the event of one's passing, and avoids causing serious financial distress and uncertainty".

It noted, however, that there are possible scenarios in which tenancy-in-common contracts may be more appropriate for some. For example, some still adhere to the basic Islamic law stated in the Quran, whereby the shares of a co-owner who has died will go back to his or her estate and are then distributed according to Islamic inheritance law, such as to his or her children.

CONSIDER IMPLICATIONS

The Fatwa Committee advises prospective home owners to consider carefully both options and understand fully the implications on the surviving joint tenant, as well as beneficiaries.

MUIS, noting that a joint tenancy contract is "typically the better option as it safeguards the interest of one's immediate family in the event of one's passing and avoids causing serious financial distress and uncertainty".

The Fatwa Committee reminded owners to make due considerations before choosing the desired type of ownership, said the deputy mufti, Dr Nazirudin Nasir.

Home owners are also encouraged to consult a legal professional before purchasing their property.

Muis said the latest fatwa applies in the event that a co-owner of a joint tenancy property had died before its release, but the surviving owner has yet to sell the property.

This latest review of the fatwa on joint tenancy contracts, which was last reviewed in 2008, followed consultation with industry practitioners, including the Muslim Financial Planners Association and the Muslim Legal Practitioners Committee.

Muis added that the reviewed fatwa does not apply retrospectively to properties which have already been sold, with the proceeds distributed to beneficiaries according to the 2008 fatwa.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2019, with the headline 'Joint tenancy contracts now religiously valid for Muslims'. Print Edition | Subscribe