MIO Law Firm Blog

How Wills For Non-Muslims In The UAE Can Protect Expat Assets

Posted by MIO Law Firm on Sep 26, 2017 11:26:42 AM

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Death is something we are usually reluctant to think about, let alone actively plan for. However, all non-Muslim expats in the UAE should consider how they can take care of their families in the event of premature death in the UAE by putting a local will in place.

As a non-Muslim expat in the UAE, you may already have made a will in your home country covering your assets there. Unfortunately, your home-country inheritance laws may not apply to your assets in the UAE, unless you have a registered will recognised under UAE laws.

UAE Governing Legislation

Wills and other issues relating to personal affairs are governed in the UAE by Federal Law 28 of 2005, known as the Law of Personal Status, which is based on Islamic Law.

The law does accommodate those residents of the UAE who follow different religions, as the Law of Personal Status permits a non-Muslim expatriate living in the UAE to elect to apply the law of his or her country to matters of personal affairs.  Article 17 of the UAE Civil Code states;

“Inheritance shall be governed by the law of the testator at the time of his death.”

In the event an expatriate dies without a Will, Federal Law No 5 of 1985, concerning the issuance of Civil Transactions Law of the UAE (the “Civil Code”), and Federal Law No. 28 of 2005 regarding the UAE Personal Status Law (the “Personal Status Law”) guide the local Courts on the distribution of assets.

In some cases, it is possible that the Courts will apply principles of Shariah law to the estate of a non-Muslim and therefore, mandatory rules of division between members of the family of the deceased will apply.

Why Have A UAE Will?

Wills for non-Muslims in the UAE, for many, is not a major concern as most non-Muslim expats intend leaving the UAE for their home country, either upon the expiry of their contract or upon retirement.

However, expatriate wills in the UAE are required if you do not want the UAE Law of Inheritance to be applied on your assets. UAE law can even affect the guardianship of your children if they are minors.

Implications For Your Family If You Die Without A Will

What can happen if you don’t have a UAE will in place in the event of your death?

Your bank accounts will be frozen immediately to meet existing or contingent liabilities (regardless of whether the accounts are joint or individual accounts).

All dependent visas will be cancelled, custody of children may go to someone you don’t prefer, or the local government may intervene in the custody decision.

Similarly, your Life insurance claims may be directed to cover your UAE liabilities or be included in the property appropriated by the Courts.  Court case appealing the automatic appropriation of deceased assets can take up to several years to hear and involve substantial legal costs.

Ultimately, the bulk of your estate may be distributed your broader extended family as per the local law rather than going to your surviving spouse or children.

Planning For Your Family’s Future

So, what do you need to arrange beforehand to avoid this unfortunate situation?

Inform your immediate family such as your spouse or parents about your assets and liabilities periodically.

Compile a complete list of all your assets, including assets, property, life insurance, and employee benefits to give your executor an understanding of your net worth.

Always complete the beneficiary details on your employee benefits form.

Wills For Non-Muslims In The UAE

While you can manage most of the process of putting a UAE will in place alone, we recommend using a consultant to smooth the verification, processing, and registration of documents required for your will.

In Dubai, you can register your will at Dubai Courts or Abu Dhabi Courts or through the DIFC Wills and Probate registry (only applicable for assets in Dubai). 

Drafting Your Will

It is essential you have your drafted will checked by a specialist in the UAE. A poorly written will can tie up your assets in long and tiresome legal battles creating additional unnecessary stress for your loved ones.

Most specialised consultants offer this service with costs ranging from AED 2,000 to AED 6,000. The DIFC Wills and Probate registry do not provide will-writing services so you must have your will prepared ahead of registration.

Arabic Translation

All documents submitted in Dubai Courts or Abu Dhabi Courts must be translated into Arabic by an approved legal translating center (one registered with the Courts and Ministry of Justice). Translations can cost up to AED 1,500 per will.

For DIFC Wills and Probate registry, the documents need not be translated and you can go through the entire documentation process in English. However, when it comes to the submission of the Will before the local Courts of Law for enforcement, a translated version into Arabic language will be requested by the Court.

Coverage

Bank accounts, property, guardianship, and all other clauses in the will are applicable in all emirates upon execution of the will. However, registering your will with DIFC Wills and Probate registry will limit your coverage to the emirate of Dubai.

Registration

Registering your will at Dubai Courts costs AED 2,165 per will while registering your will at the DIFC Wills & Probate Registry can cost upwards of AED 10,000.  Wills can also be registered with the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department where it costs up to AED 750/-

(Note: All registration costs are indicative only and are subject to change and are correct at the date of publication.) 

Power Of Attorney

Sometimes a non-Muslim expat may give their spouse Power of Attorney (PoA) giving them legal control over assets during their lifetime. However, all PoA agreements are voided once death is confirmed.  On its own, a PoA is not sufficient to protect your family upon your death.

A power of attorney draft can cost between Dh1,000 to Dh2,000 while registration costs Dh265*.

(Note: All registration costs are indicative only and are subject to change and are correct at the date of publication.)

Do You Need A Guardianship Will?

For those with young children who are legally minors, a separate guardianship will is not mandatory in Dubai Courts or Abu Dhabi Courts and the clause can simply be inserted in your will.

Embassy And Consulate

Once your will has been fully notarised and registered in Dubai Courts or Abu Dhabi Courts, you need not submit anything to your embassy or consulate. However, assets in your home country are subject to local laws and regulations. Get in touch with your embassy for assistance with such cases.

Nominating An Executor For Your Will

You can nominate your spouse,  or an immediate family member, including your siblings or children, providing they are over 21 years of age as the executor of your will.  This can be a difficult and demanding job, so take care to select someone who is trustworthy, diligent, and capable of handling such matters!

 

Conclusion

Few subjects are as uncomfortable or as unwelcome as the possibility of our own death. However, for non-Muslim expats resident in the UAE, putting a UAE will in place is a sensible, even essential, step in ensuring that your family is protected and your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets are followed in the event of your death.

Let us help you make the right legal decisions with your UAE will.

Request a consultation today!

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Topics: Non-Muslim wills in the UAE