Paying zakat after the death of the father
Our father passed away one month ago and he left several apartments that he had invested. During his lifetime, he did not pay the exact sum of zakat due on their revenue but a random sum during the year. What should we do before dividing the estate? Is his sin removed if we pay the zakat due on him? We decided to give 5000 pounds in charity on his behalf; is it permissible if one of the heirs takes from this sum to pay off his own debt?
Zakat is not due on the value of rental apartments; the landlord is obliged to pay zakat when his money reaches nisab [minimum on which zakat is due and which equals the value of 85 grams of gold] when it remains in his possession for an entire lunar year.
First, the value of apartments put up for sale is estimated and zakat on them is calculated accordingly.
Secondly, when a person does not pay the zakat due on his money, it becomes a debt which is only waived by payment. Consequently, your father’s zakat has become a debt which you are obliged to pay off even if it exhausts all the inheritance.
Al-Imam Al-Nawawi (may God be pleased with him) said in Al-Majmu’ that the zakat due on a person who was able to pay it and died without having done so, must be paid from his estate because it is a right that he should have paid while he was alive; death does not absolve him of it. The legal premise for this is hadith is: “Debts owed to God have more right to be paid” [recorded by Bukhari and Muslim]. Accordingly, your father (may God have mercy on him and accept his repentance) should have paid zakat for all the years during which he failed to carry out this obligation, thus completing his repentance. Since he did not do so, the heirs should pay his zakat on his behalf for all those years.
Thirdly, the heirs are obliged to pay their father’s outstanding zakat if they know its sum or are able to estimate it. They are not obliged to pay it from the estate if:
- They have doubts on whether or not their father owes any zakat;
- they cannot verify the matter; or
- they deem it likely that he paid his due zakat.
The reason for this is that doubt does not establish a basis for a ruling.
Fourthly, an ongoing charity is a waqf [an endowment], but giving money to individuals is a charity. Charity differs from zakat in that it is permissible to give it to relatives even if they are among the heirs.
And God the Almighty knows best.