BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE IRANIAN SYSTEM OF INHERITANCE
The Iranian inheritance law strictly follows the Islamic “sharia” and in particular the “Shia” view of “Shia” scholars and interpreters of the Quran. These “sharia” based rules are mirrored in the Iranian civil code, where inheritance is greatly discussed in the personal status chapter.
In this system, fixed shares are the main factor in determining what and how much each heir gets (for example a husband gets half of his deceased wife’s assets if she is without children and a quarter if she has children).
These fixed shares are based on two factors:
Blood (children and parents in the first class, siblings in the second, and uncles and aunts in the third and last class)
Marriage (in parallel with all three classes).
Another significant characteristic of the Iranian succession system is that males are granted twice the share of females in most situations. These fixed shares are discussed in detail in the Iranian civil code.
Applicable Law (what happens if a foreigner dies in Iran?)
The Iranian civil code recognizes the law of a foreign deceased’s nationality as governing law in the matter of executing their will if they die within Iranian jurisdictional borders or if they are residents in Iran or have any movable assets (like cars or cash or commodities) in Iran. we emphasize the word movable because Foreign individuals are not allowed to own property in Iran.
Other constitutionally recognized religious minorities (Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and some Islamic sects that are different from the prevalent “Shia” majority” are also allowed to have their religious canon be the governing law in personal status matters like inheritance and marriage but keep in mind that exemptions may apply.
Freedom of Testation (can I give all my assets to charity in my will?)
In the Iranian civil code, a successor is not given the freedom to dispose of all of their assets in their will and they are restrictively limited by a 33.3% limit. In this case, other heirs will lose this amount off their shares.
Also, this whole process is limited to humans and as you expect, no one can leave money to their pets but still, you can ask others to take care of them after you answer the great calling.
Most importantly the limitation of freedom of testation extends the other way around where the Iranian law does not allow for exhereditation (the act of excluding someone from your will/estate).
Intestacy (what happens if the deceased does not have a valid will)
In this case, as we mentioned before codified fixed shares are the main factor in determining what and how much an heir gets. And if someone is without any heir to continue with their legacy their assets get transferred to the government.
Spouses (am I entitled to any of my Iranian husband/wife’s assets?)
Yes, Foreign spouses of Iranian citizens are entitled to the same share as Iranian citizens.
Pregnancy (does a conceived fetus have inheritance rights in Iran?)
If at the time of death, a wife of or a woman related to the deceased is conceived, that fetus is entitled to the same fixed share as any other individual in that class and degree of heirs, granted that it must be born alive. Also, a testator/trix can put the name of the existing fetus in their will and gift them up to a third of their assets.
Inheritance tax as it applies to foreigners (should I pay more inheritance tax in Iran because I am a foreigner?)
If the deceased and the heirs are foreign nationals, the property and assets of the deceased located in Iran will be taxed at the rate of the first class of Iranian heirs. It shall be noted that all debts on the estate of the deceased must be cleared before the distribution of the assets to the heirs, including the former tax liabilities and the “Mahr”.
The Iranian inheritance is a complicated and special system with many subtleties and exemptions, if you are involved in a case of inheritance in Iran feel free to contact Karimi and Associates Law Firm to enjoy the legal services provided by our team of experts.
Written by: Majed Soleimani