This information is a summary of the guidance found on the National Spiritual Assembly website and in the Local Spiritual Assembly handbook. If you are in doubt about anything, please ask the Local Spiritual Assembly for further guidance.

WILLS

Every Baha’i of legal age (18 years and over) should have a Will.

Unto everyone hath been enjoined the writing of a will.

(Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 59)

For a Baha’i, not only does your Will provide important information about the disposal of your assets and who is your executor and trustee, it also allows you to testify your faith.

The testator should head this document with the adornment of the Most Great Name, bear witness therein unto the oneness of God in the Dayspring of His Revelation, and make mention, as he may wish, of that which is praiseworthy, so that it may be a testimony for him in the kingdoms of Revelation and Creation and a treasure with his Lord, the Supreme Protector, the Faithful.

(Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 59)

It is also important for family unity as no Baha’i may dispute a Will of another Baha’i.

A person’s will is sacred and therefore a Bahá’í is not permitted to challenge the provisions of another’s will.

(letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, dated September 4, 1986)

Preparing a will clarifies the wishes of the believer to have a Bahá’í funeral and helps to ensure the unity of the family by avoiding disagreement over burial arrangements and the division of assets following death.

The friends should be strongly advised to make Wills specifying that they want their funerals to be conducted under the auspices of the Bahá’í Faith, or at least in conformity with its requirements, and they should make this known both to the Local Spiritual Assembly and to their own relatives, while they are still alive. In this way it is quite possible that agreements may be reached with nonBahá’í relatives before death takes place.

(letter from the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, dated August 18, 1972)

Any person is at liberty to will his possessions as he sees fit provided he makes provisions for the payment of Huqúqu’lláh and the discharge of his debts.

(Synopsis and Codification of the Laws and Ordinances of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 46)

Notes:

  1. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh provides for the division of an estate if a believer does not leave a will. These provisions are not intended as advice for Bahá’ís to follow in creating a will. Also, they cannot have any effect in Australia where specific laws are in place to deal with this situation.
  2. Where a provision in a will conflicts with the laws of the Faith (e.g. a provision to be cremated), neither the Local Spiritual Assembly nor the Bahá’í relatives are permitted to fulfil it. If either are made aware of the provisions prior to the death of the Bahá’í, they should attempt to deepen the believer in the significance of adhering to the laws of the Faith. Should Bahá’í relatives or the Local Spiritual Assembly discover the contents of the will following the death of the believer, they should make an effort to conduct a Bahá’í burial unless this is prohibited under civil law – in such a case, the Local Spiritual Assembly could have no part in it.

As every country has different laws and these may be quite complex, a solicitor should be used to draw up a will. The named executors are mainly responsible for the distribution of the assets and not for dealing with the funeral nor the burial. Hence it is suggested that at least one Baha’i is appointed as executor.

The civil law in relation to the making of wills is sometimes quite complex. It is, therefore, highly advisable for an individual to consult a lawyer when he makes his will to ensure that his intention is not nullified by some possible breach of the requirements of the law in the drawing up or execution of the will.

(letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, dated September 4, 1986)

The executor of a will is the person named in the will to be responsible for carrying out its requirements after death. The will is primarily an instrument dealing with the transfer of assets to beneficiaries. The executor is bound to distribute assets as he or she is directed by the will, although State legislation allows the executor some flexibility in the manner in which this is to be done. Burial or funeral requirements, on the other hand, are not binding on the executor, although a sympathetic executor would endeavour to abide by the will-maker’s wishes. It is, therefore, wise to appoint one or more Bahá’ís as executors, in order to ensure that the Bahá’í burial requirements are followed. It is important to provide copies of the will to the executors, as often the will is not located and read until after the funeral. It is important to note that, in the words of the Universal House of Justice, “neither the National or Local Spiritual Assemblies should be named as executor of a will.”

(letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, dated January 4, 1971)

Note:

  1. The advice against naming an institution as the executor of a will also applies to the officers of an Assembly in their official capacity.

A will should be reviewed periodically and, if necessary, altered to cover changed circumstances. Changes should be made with the help of a solicitor.

Note:

  1. Marriage automatically invalidates a will made prior to the marriage. Divorce or separation of the parties does not have the same effect.

When dealing with Huqúqu’lláh or with bequests to Baha’i Institutions, there are specific requirements that need to be followed. Further assistance should be sought from the Local Spiritual Assembly.

. . . unless the believer concerned leaves a clear accounting of his property and his payment of Huqúqu’lláh to date, if any, it will not be possible for anyone to calculate what remains to be paid at the time of his death. The payment of Huqúqu’lláh is an individual responsibility.

(letter from the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, dated July 17, 1989)

Essentially, the Huqúqu’lláh should be paid by a believer during the course of his life whenever his surplus property reaches the assessable level. A certain leeway is provided in the law, inasmuch as reference is made to the annual expenses which should be deducted before the liability to Huqúqu’lláh is calculated. Ideally, when a Bahá’í dies, the only payment to Huqúqu’lláh which should need to be provided for in his will is such additional liability as may be found to exist when his affairs are reckoned up as at the date of his death. The House of Justice hopes that as the believers acquaint themselves with the law of Huqúqu’lláh and start to pay it, they will also learn not only how to calculate it during the course of their lives but will thereby be enabled to understand how to provide for the payment of the balance remaining at their deaths.

(letter from the Universal House of Justice to a Board of Trustees of Huqúqu’lláh, dated October 1, 1989)

Note:

  1. Believers are asked to make careful provision for Bahá’í documents in their wills, especially if they have non-Bahá’í relatives, by either bequeathing them to a Bahá’í institution or a trusted individual or authorising such an institution or individual to dispose of the papers in a fit manner.