A will is essential to protect your family and assets.

It is not a pleasant subject to think and talk about. However, all expatriates living in the UAE need to be aware that the laws over here differ from those in their home countries when it comes to matters of death and inheritance.

ExpatConnect has asked solicitor Nita Maru to give some background information about the Sharia Law in the UAE and to explain how a will can help to keep your family financially secure and protect your assets. Read what Maru has to say:

1. Protecting your assets

The Government of Dubai’s official website emphasises that ‘The UAE Courts will adhere to Sharia law in any situation where there is no will in place’.

This means that if you die without having planned your family’s future, local authorities will examine your estate and distribute it according to Sharia law, which may differ greatly from what you intend. There are also many uncertainties regarding real estate inheritance issues under Sharia. Unlike other jurisdictions, the UAE does not practice ‘right of survivorship’ (where property passes on automatically to a surviving joint owner upon death of the other), and again, the local courts will have a final say in the matter.

Meanwhile, personal assets, including bank accounts, will be frozen until liabilities have been discharged. Shared assets will also be frozen until the issues of inheritance are determined, and family members are often left without access to money during this period.

Dying intestate (without a will) could also leave debts unpaid; until the estate is finally dealt with by the courts, and your family’s ongoing financial requirements are met.

2. Preserving your business

As a business owner, a significant portion of your wealth – and your family’s main source of future income – will be tied up in your business.

All businesses – whether sole proprietor firms, partnerships, joint ventures, limited liability companies or free zone corporations – should plan for the transfer, succession, and/or sale of the business when faced with the death of the owner, or a partner.

3. Safeguarding your family

If you are parents, a will can be used to specify who must look after your young children after your deaths. The absence of a will may goad authorities to intervene in guardianship matters, especially when both parents die simultaneously, and there is a possibility that their care may be entrusted to those you may not want.

If you are married, it is wrong to assume that your spouse will get/inherit everything you own. Sharia is based on a fixed share allocation system for the disbursement of assets, and a wife is entitled to receive only one-eighth of her deceased husband’s total estate if they have children.

4. DIFC Wills and Probate Registry

The new regime from the DIFC: The ‘DIFC Wills and Probate Registry’ (the Registry) provides certainty for non-Muslim expatriates to pass on their Dubai estate in the event of death to their chosen beneficiaries. The Registry marks the introduction of a new set of rules relating to succession and inheritance matters for non-Muslims with assets in Dubai.

In order to register a will at the Registry, the testator must be of non-Muslim faith, over 21 years of age, have minors living with them in Dubai (If a guardianship provision within the will is required) and/or have assets in Dubai. Both residents and non-residents in the UAE can register their will, as long as they have assets in Dubai.

Due to our established Wills/Inheritance Department and expertise in this area, we are pleased to have participated in the working group involved in formulating and contributing to the Registry’s Rules.

Expatriates that are contemplating preparing a DIFC Will or those that have existing Wills may wish to seek professional legal advice regarding the opportunity the Registry avails.

Please contact one of our experienced lawyers today for more details. Email us at info@twslegal.ae or call +971 4 448 4284.
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