Under Syria’s Personal Status Law No. 59 of 1953, which is based on Islamic Sharia principles, the Druze’s inheritance rules are the same as those for other Islamic sects. That being said, the rules for drawing up bequests differ in the Druze sect.
Rules for bequests
The Druze faith considers a person’s bequest an obligation for each member of the faith. Article 307 of Personal Status Law No. 59 of 1953 entitles the Druze to regulate some personal status matters unique to their sect, which includes bequests. Accordingly, members of the Druze sect may distribute their assets in their bequests as they see fit.
This means that people in the Druze community may grant and deprive inheritances to whomever they wish. According to Article 307 of Law No. 59, “the bequest is to be implemented for the inheritors and others, with one-third and more than one-third” of the inheritance. Among the Druze, the bequest is the first item to be implemented following someone’s death.
The bequest must remain valued from the time of its creation until the person’s death for it to be implemented. It may become invalid in some cases, such as if a person changes their bequest or loses their mental capabilities or if the beneficiary dies before the writer of the bequest dies.
Whether or not the beneficiaries are from the same religion as the writer of the bequest has no impact, as Druze bequeathment rules state that a person may choose to distribute their assets after death as they see fit.
Mechanisms for implementing bequests in the Druze community
An individual must formally register their bequest to ensure its implementation – that is, it cannot become legally enforceable until after the court issues a ruling in its favour. The beneficiary, or one of the beneficiaries, must file a lawsuit requesting the registration of the bequest before either the Doctrinal Court of the Unitarian Druze in Suweida or the Second Doctrinal Court in Ashrafieh Saynaya in Damascus Countryside.
The litigants in such cases are all the heirs, as well as those not included in the bequest. The aim is to give everyone a space to express their opposition to formal will registration.
After the parties have presented their evidence, the judge must issue a final judgment on the bequest and either approve or reject it for registration. If approved, the bequest will be implemented.
Rulings may be appealed before the Sharia Chamber in the Damascus Court of Cassation, specialised in personal status issues. The appeal must be filed within 30 days of the litigants being notified of the doctrinal judge’s ruling.
Suppose the Court of Cassation approves the decision that confirms the bequest. In that case, the bequest has final approval and may subsequently be considered enforceable before the Ministry of Justice’s Department of Civil and Legal Implementation. This department launches the process for implementing the bequest by addressing the Land Registry to transfer ownership of any real estate properties to the beneficiaries.