In mid-June, Abdullah bin Mohammed Belhaif Al Nuaimi, UAE’s Minister for Infrastructure Development, told Bloomberg TV:
“We believe that the UAE is a place where expats are well-skilled, and we definitely need them. The pandemic is not going to be here for a long time. The world will definitely deal with the pandemic and get rid of it. Then we would regret that we got rid of our skilled workforce, whether it is nationals or expats. We would like to keep them.”
This statement was in response to an announcement by a Kuwaiti official of plans to reduce the country’s expatriate population workforce from 70 per cent to 30 per cent.
The message is clear – unlike some of the Gulf States, the UAE government has no intention of curbing expatriate workers following the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is good news for those concerned about their future prospects in the country. But to completely secure you and your family’s future in these uncertain times, it is well worth examining your affairs and taking steps to ensure that if the worst should happen, your loved ones will be provided for.
Below are three ways to protect your family if you are an expatriate in the UAE.
Make a Will and register it with the DIFC
No matter what your age, if you are a non-Muslim living in Dubai, it is imperative that you create a Will and register it with the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) . If you die without a Will (known as dying intestate), Sharia law will apply to your estate.
Under Sharia law, a wife can only inherit a maximum of 1/8th of her husband’s property and assets. If a wife predeceases her husband, he will inherit a maximum of 1/4 of her estate. Another key difference between English private client law and Sharia law is that joint assets do not automatically pass to the surviving spouse. Instead, each joint owner is viewed as a shareholder of the asset, and the deceased’s share can be given to beneficiaries as set out under the division principles of Sharia Law. Concerning guardianship, a wife does not automatically attain guardianship of her children if her husband dies. Instead, her husband’s father would become the automatic legal guardian of any children surviving him.
The DIFC Wills Service Centre was set up to ensure expatriates were able to pass on their assets to whom they wished, as occurs under English law. You can register a DIFC Will if you are a non-Muslim, over 21 years, and have assets in the UAE. If you wish to appoint a guardian for your children, those children must be habitually resident in the country.
Organise a Power of Attorney
It may seem excessive to organise someone to manage your financial affairs if you are young, fit, and healthy. But Covid-19 has illustrated that if you survive a major illness (or accident), the road to recovery is far from smooth. It is estimated that those who are admitted to intensive care for Covid-19 will be off work for at least six months.
Dr David Hepburn, an intensive care consultant at the Royal Gwent hospital in Newport, wrote on Twitter:
“If you end up on ITU [intensive therapy unit] it’s a life-changing experience. It carries a huge cost even if you do get better. As our patients wake up, they are so weak they can’t sit unaided, many can’t lift their arms off the bed due to profound weakness. They need to be taught to walk again, breathe again, and have problems with speech and swallowing.”
During a long convalescence, knowing that your personal and financial affairs are taken care of by someone you trust allows you and your loved ones to concentrate on your recovery. This is especially important if you choose to leave the UAE to seek rehabilitation in your home country. A Power of Attorney will ensure your UAE property and assets are managed according to your instructions, protecting your family from additional stress.
Have emergency backup plans and a succession plan for your business
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call for business owners regarding ensuring that they have actionable plans to replace key workers and management, and a strategy for passing on their business upon retirement or death.
For SMEs, each senior position should have an emergency backup plan and a succession plan. As these positions are often filled by in-house staff or family members, investing in ongoing training and mentoring is vital. Furthermore, policies and procedures for crisis management need to be in place so that customers and cashflow are not affected if illness or tragedy strikes unexpectedly.
To find out how we can assist you with all of the above lifetime planning, please contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +971 4 448 4284.