As expatriate families, you are concerned about protecting your wealth wisely during your lifetime. But as a specialist lawyer, Nita Maru says it is more important to protect your assets – and your family – by deciding now what to do when faced with death.
My husband and I jointly own a freehold apartment in Dubai. If one of us dies, will the other or our children automatically inherit it? (MJ, Australian, 31)
Nita: In the UAE, inheritance for Muslim nationals is guided by Sharia laws, while the law of the deceased’s home country is applied for non-Muslim expatriates. However, there are many uncertainties regarding real estate inheritance issues, and expatriate property owners are recommended to make wills to overcome these. Unlike other jurisdictions, the UAE does not practice ‘right of survivorship’ (property passing on to surviving joint owner upon death of the other), and the local courts will make final decisions. To ensure absolute peace of mind on these issues there are alternative offshore solutions we can advise upon.
I have heard some horror stories of financial troubles after a sudden death. Is it true that if my husband dies, our joint bank account will get frozen, and what must we do to avoid this? (SS, British, 44)
Nita: In principle, the bank accounts of a deceased will be frozen until all liabilities such as car, property and personal loans, credit cards, and business debts are cleared. Sometimes, an account gets frozen within hours of a fatality but the procedures for reactivating it are lengthy and complex. These can be avoided or expedited by planning your estate.
My husband runs a company and sponsors me and our children. What effect will his death have on our resident visas, staying in the UAE, and managing his company? (PRT, South African, 28)
Nita: It is a grim reality that upon a sponsor’s death, the family’s visas will be cancelled within 30 days and they will have to leave the country. In the absence of a will, the future of the company also remains uncertain. We offer various contingency plans for those wishing to stay in the UAE and/or ensure smooth business transition.
My cousin and I are business partners and equal shareholders in a small business in Dubai. Should I worry about the future, if one of us dies? ( JJ, Indian, 39)
Nita: In the event of a shareholder’s death, local probate laws are applied to a business, but the results may be unpredictable as shares do not pass automatically by survivorship, nor can another family member take over in lieu. However, we can secure arrangements to avoid lengthy local probate and guarantee business continuity.
Nita Maru (LLB Hons.) is a British qualified lawyer and founding director of The Wills Specialists, a legal consultancy firm in Dubai. She can be contacted for personal appointments on
Tel: (+ 971) 4 448 4284, by
or by visiting