Does Father Own Everything after Mother’s Death?

Question and answer details
As-salamu `alaykum. If my father is still alive after my mother’s death, does he become the natural owner of everything my mother owned? Or is there an Islamic injunction that my mother’s assets should be distributed? If there is to be a distribution, what are the shares? My family now consists of my father, my four sisters and myself. I was of the opinion that as long as my father is alive, I do not have to bother about any distribution. Please, advise. I would also like to know about Zakah. In the hadith it is mentioned that Zakah must be paid on silver at this rate, but does that apply to everything?
Muzammil Siddiqi

Wa `alaykum as-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear brother in Islam, thank you very much for having confidence in us and we hope Allah grants you deep insight in understanding Islam and its unique teachings.

You have asked a serious question and it is serious due to the importance of inheritance and Zakah in the Shari`ah.

First of all, we would like to stress that the laws of inheritance are well explained in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). It is clear that one’s property should be distributed among the rightful heirs according to the laws of inheritance stipulated in the Shari`ah.

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Also, it should be clear that Zakah is obligatory on those who have the nisab (minimum zakatable amount), which is about 3 ounces of gold or its cash value. Muslims should calculate all their wealth carefully. After deducting their personal and family expenses, they must pay Zakah on whatever is left. The rate of Zakah on cash, gold, and silver is a minimum of 2.5 percent.

In his response to your question, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former President of the Islamic Society of North America, states,

After the death of a person, it is important that his/her property is distributed according to the Islamic law of inheritance. Whatever your mother left should be distributed as soon as possible. In your case the share of your father will be 25 percent of all your mother’s possessions. The balance should be divided between you and your sisters. Your share will be 25 percent and your sisters should receive 12.5 percent each.

The nisab of Zakah, that is, the minimum amount that makes the wealth zakatable, as well as the rate of zakat, was fixed by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Just as the Prophet fixed the rak`ahs of Prayers and gave us other details about salah, in a similar way he also told us about Zakah.

It is very important that we follow the guidance of the Prophet in this matter. Just as you cannot change the number of rak`ahs of the Prayers, you also cannot change the ratio of Zakah. It is obligatory to pay Zakah on gold and silver and also on cash money at the rate of 2.5 percent. It is reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to tell the people to give one dinar from every forty dinars. (Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah)

Allah Almighty knows best.