Non-Muslims living in the UAE should make a will in case of death or undergo time-consuming procedures to ensure that the inheritance scheme is implemented according to their own country’s laws, experts said.
Failure to do so may result in family disputes, according to a report by the Ministry of Interior’s monthly publication, 999 Magazine.
Only about 10-20 per cent of expat residents in the UAE have taken legal steps towards asset distribution, according to the report.
Sources confirmed that a comprehensive will ensures that a person’s possessions are distributed according to his wishes in the event of death. “Oftentimes the family of the deceased can obtain official documents from their country of origin asking that distribution of assets be done according to their country of citizenship,” said Emirati lawyer Hussain Al Jaziri.
In Islam, the rules of inheritance are made clear and oftentimes there is no need for a will. However, Muslims can write a will in which they can give out only one third of their property to non-family members, including charity organisations and the less fortunate.
Additionally, Lt Col Awad Saleh Al Kindi, editor-in-chief of 999, said: “There’s a need for residents to be aware of the inheritance rules in the country. This is important to preserve peace and harmony within the family, which forms the basic unit of our society.”
For non-Muslim expatriates who don’t have a will, there is a likelihood that Sharia law or forced rules on inheritors will apply. The court may also decide on who takes care of the surviving children upon the untimely death of the parent/s. If the expatriate has assets outside the UAE, he could lose a huge proportion of his inheritance to excessive taxes.
“If you want the right money in the right hands at the right time, the starting point is a properly executed last will and testament, without which your dependants may be in dire straits for some considerable time before assets are released,” Steve Gregory, managing partner at Holborn Assets, told Gulf News.
“Worse, without a statement about guardians for the children, courts have no reason to follow what might seem reasonable, and may make decisions that leave children with grandparents or others whom the parents may never have wanted.”
Gregory explained that a valid will is required in every jurisdiction where there are assets. So, someone with properties in the UK and France and bank accounts in the Isle of Man and UAE, already has four jurisdictions for his executors to deal with.
If a non-expatriate Muslim in the UAE has assets in the country and abroad, Gregory said it is advisable to get an international will or a similar document from their home country.
Andrew Prince at Acuma Independent Financial Advice explained that Sharia inheritance provisions are a form of forced heirship which is used in a number of countries, including France. “However, unlike France, in the UAE, the Sharia provisions will tend to pass a much greater share of the estate to the male bloodline. The female spouse, for example, may only receive one eighth of the estate held in the UAE,” he said.
“Additionally, your surviving family will have the extra problem that your Dubai, Abu Dhabi or UAE-based assets are likely to be frozen while the local legal system works through the process of assessing debts that need paying from your estate. The delay might be a couple of years or so getting all these matters dealt with,” he added.