Inheritance refers to any movable or immovable assets left behind by an individual after their death. Their heirs become entitled to this inheritance in accordance with certain rules, and after fulfilling the deceased person’s wills and any debts they owed.
The origin of inheritance in Syria lies in Islamic Sharia rules, adopted by the Personal Status Law issued in 1953. These rules applied to both Muslims and non-Muslims. However, an amendment to the Personal Status Law issued within Decree No. 76 of 2010 instead placed inheritance and wills under the provisions of religious communities. There are now different personal status laws for Muslims, Christians and Druze, which deal with inheritance issues.
For most Syrians, except therefore Christians and Druze, inheritance is based on a few basic rules in the personal status law No. 76 of 2010, which includes Islamic Sharia rules. The most important of these rules includes the distribution of inheritance by nearest degree of kinship to the deceased. For example, the deceased person’s grandson may not receive inheritance if the son is present. There is also the rule of paternal kinship. For example, if the deceased person has two grandchildren–the daughter of a son, and the son of a daughter–then their inheritance goes to the former, because in this case, the granddaughter has the closer paternal kinship to the deceased.
Male heirs receive double the share of inheritance as female heirs, though only when they have an equal degree of kinship, such as brothers and sisters. However, this rule does not apply in other cases. Women may indeed inherit more than men in a number of cases, such as when a woman dies and leaves behind a husband, two parents and two daughters. In this case, her daughters receive two thirds of the inheritance, her husband one fourth and each of her parents one sixth. If the deceased woman had only one daughter, then the daughter would receive half the inheritance. And in some cases, women may inherit while men do not. For example, if the deceased person had a paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather, then the grandmother inherits while the grandfather does not.
Under Syrian law, there are two types of inheritance, if the assets to be passed down include real estate:
First is Sharia “legal” estate inventory, which is subject to the provisions of inheritance distribution as laid out in the Personal Status Law in cases where the real estate properties in question are all located within a given zoning plan. In such cases, a legal estate inventory document is organised before the Sharia court after an expert appointed by the court determines the share to be given to each heir. Then the Sharia judge issues a legal estate inventory document that includes the names of each heir.
Second is legal estate inventory, which is used for Amiri lands or for properties located outside of a given zoning plan. This inventory document is subject to the provisions of the Law on Transfer of Immovable Amiri Properties of 1928 and is issued by the Civil Magistrate Court. In such cases, the court issues a decision determining the rights holders for Amiri lands to be passed down. Here the share for male heirs is equal to that of female heirs, regardless of their degree of kinship to the deceased.