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Expat Wills

Expat Wills Latest News

Relevant news on Wills, Inheritance and Succession Laws brought to you by Expatriate Wills

We collect and assemble snippets of news that provide updates about the will services industry with particular relevance to expats.

The 5 latest news articles can be viewed by clicking the links below.

For articles older that the latest 5, please view our news archive.

The what and why of writing a will in Dubai

If you're considering writing a will, it must first be understood what a 'Will' is, and most importantly, what are the laws and regulations surrounding this topic in the UAE.

The thought of writing a Will is never pleasant – people tend to avoid thinking about one’s own mortality but it is necessary, especially for expatriates. And even more so, it is imperative for expatriates with children living in Dubai. But, if you’re considering writing a will, it must first be understood what a Will is.

Under the UAE law, a Will is a disposition by a person over his estate, which is deferred until after his death. In simple terms, it is a document that distributes one’s assets after his/her death. Because the UAE is a Muslim country dominated by an expatriate society, this makes the matter of Wills and laws of inheritance a bit complex.

Common misconceptions

Unfortunately, misconceptions are abundant when the topic of Wills is brought up. There are many theories that are thrown around when an expatriate (Muslim or non-Muslim) dies in the Emirate of Dubai. Here are just a few common ones:

The laws of the expatriate’s home country will prevail when distributing his/her assets

First and foremost, anyone in Dubai who dies without a Will, his/her assets will be distributed as per Shariah law. This rule is not dependent upon a decedent’s nationality, ethnicity, or religion – everyone (Muslim or Non-Muslim) is subject to this rule. While Muslims may be a bit more prepared for the distribution, Non-Muslims may have an extremely hard time coping with this, especially if the decedent has children living in Dubai.

With or without a Will, if a decedent was married, all his/her assets will automatically transfer to his/her spouse.

Unlike many other jurisdictions, the UAE does not recognize a principle known as the “Right of Survivor-ship.” This particular right gives any property, jointly held by the decedent and his/her spouse, immediately to the spouse upon the death of the other. Unfortunately, this right is not recognized in Dubai. As stated above, the default rules of Dubai is Shariah law and this particular right is against Shariah law principles.

It is important to get a Will if you own real property in Dubai.

The laws of Dubai are particularly difficult when it comes to rules of inheritance and immovable (or real) property. While a Non-Muslim can have his/her movable assets disbursed in accordance with the laws of the home country through a Will, this principle is not as definite when it comes to real property. In the case of inheritance under UAE law, the law of where the real property is located applies. There are ways to go around this particular law but such avenues should not be utilized without the consultation of a legal advisor.

Writing a will? Here’s what to do

Non-Muslim expatriates have the option of writing a will and filing it in either the Dubai International Financial Center Courts or with the Dubai Courts. Each avenue has its own unique procedures to follow in order for the Will to be recognized and legalized in the Emirate of Dubai, so guidance is highly recommended. When determining which path to take, several factors come into consideration such as expenses, where your assets are located, and availability of professionals to draft the Will.

Muslims’ assets will be distributed as per Shariah law but they are allowed to disperse the remaining one-third of their assets through a Will registered with the Dubai Courts, only.

Publish date: 18/09/16 15:14
Source: MoneyDoctor by Souqalmal.com, Published on 05 September 2016

How to: Pay for registering your DIFC expat will in installments

Partnership to offer zero per cent easy payment plans up to 12 months – making Will registration easier in Dubai

A little more than one year ago, DIFC Wills came into force that ensured the wishes of the testators are carried out even when it comes to immovable property in Dubai.

The registration of these wills has now been made easier as DIFC Wills & Probate Registry (WPR) has announced a new partnership with Emirates NBD to ensure that for the first time ever, individuals that want to secure their assets in Dubai can now do so for a manageable monthly cost.

The relationship will see Emirates NBD offering zero per cent payment options to their customers over the period of up to 12 months upon registering a Will with WPR. It has been specifically designed to offer peace of mind to people who are looking to spread the costs of registering a Will, whether they are living, investing or conducting business in Dubai.

More banks are expected to follow Emirates NBD in offering the option to their customers.

Sean Hird, Director, DIFC Wills & Probate Registry, commented, “Registering a will this way means that people will have immediate peace of mind knowing their hard earned assets are safe and their succession will be in line with their personal wishes. Now our customers can also spread the payments at no extra cost over three to 12 months.”

The registration of a single will is Dh10,000 and that of two mirror wills is Dh15,000. The Wills & Probate Registry is based on international best practices to give residents and non-residents a legal solution and the freedom to dispose assets as they wish after their death.

DIFC Wills & Probate Registry is the first jurisdiction in the Mena region where one can register an English language will under internationally-recognised common law.

By virtue of these Wills and Probate rules, individuals with assets in Dubai now will have the ability to register will in the English language that creates legal certainty for the inheritance of their assets after death. It is a simple and efficient mechanism to pass on their estates according to their wishes, says DIFC.

Before these wills came into being, expats could only safeguard their interest as far as the movable assets are concerned but fell short if there were any immovable assets in the country.

Publish date: 29/08/16 15:16
Source: Emirates 24/7, Published on 02 July 2016

Why expats in the UAE need to plan for the worst

If your family is left behind grieving, stranded and strapped for cash, it won’t be because you did something wrong. It will be because you did nothing.

As an expat living in the UAE you can be forgiven for thinking about the here and now and not contemplating what might happen if you pass away. But it is more important to protect what you have – and your family – by deciding now what to do when faced with death and consider succession planning.

Nita Maru looks at what you can do to plan for the unthinkable:

Personal Planning

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 pass away in the UAE 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. With regards to real estate inheritance issues under Sharia Law, the UAE does not practise ‘right of survivorship’ (where property passes automatically to a surviving joint owner upon death of the other). 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.

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. The success of your estate planning is dependent upon this business being transferred smoothly, or sold to a third party for a fair price. Either way, it takes considerable planning and preparation, and should be ranked high on your priority list. If you do not have a proper business succession in place, you simply cannot be sure what will happen after your death: whether your family will be provided for, who will look after your business. All businesses – whether sole proprietor firms, partnerships, limited liability companies or free zone corporations – should plan for the transfer, succession and/or sale when faced with the death of an owner.

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 persuade 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 Law 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.

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. It also allows non-Muslims to prepare wills to cover the issue of guardianship. 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. Expatriates that are contemplating preparing a DIFC will or those that have existing wills may wish to seek professional legal advice from licensed and registered law firms in Dubai regarding the opportunity the Registry avails. It is imperative that expats explore the necessary steps they need to take to ensure that their families are protected and are prepared financially for the unexpected. You should be prepared today for all that may and can happen tomorrow.

Publish date: 29/08/16 15:13
Source: 7 Days - Ask The Expert, Published on 29 May 2016

DIFC Wills and Probate and Registry

Non-muslim expats can now register a Will under international Common Law.

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) launched the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry (WPR) that allows non-Muslim expats to control what happens to their assets based in Dubai in the event of their death.

Nita Maru is a UK-qualified solicitor and managing partner at TWS Legal Consultants in Dubai. She is privileged to be part of the working panel which created the DFIC WPR and their rules.

Maru explains that the DIFC WPR is an administrative body which works with the DIFC Courts in the production of grants and court orders for the distribution of assets as well as guardianship. Its creation enables non-Muslim expats to register a Will under the internationally-recognised Common Law.

Should you wish to prepare a DIFC Will, it is prudent to seek the advice of a correctly licensed Solicitor. Wills are important documents that should be prepared by qualified and licensed lawyers. As noted on the Registry website, a “home-drafted Will may be invalid or ineffective, causing unnecessary burdens and expenses on your executors and beneficiaries” … “it is advisable to consult a qualified legal representative”.

How are the UAE assets of a non-Muslim dealt with after death?

The distribution of such assets is guided by UAE Federal Law (Personal Status Law and the Civil Transactions Code) and public order in accordance with Sharia custom and principles. Following a death, the UAE Courts will examine an estate and potentially distribute it according to Sharia law, where distributions are as per fixed share ratios.

What does that mean?

Under Sharia law, a surviving wife who has children qualifies for an eighth of her husband’s estate, and a surviving husband who has children qualifies for one quarter of his wife’s estate. The remainder of the estate will be distributed amongst other family members, depending on who survives the deceased at the date of death.

What about guardianship of children?

Whilst a surviving wife may be appointed as a custodian of any children of the marriage, she may not automatically be appointed as the legal guardian. A surviving husband is likely to be appointed as a custodian and legal guardian of any children of the marriage.

What then are the benefits of registering a will at the DIFC WPR?

The DIFC is the first jurisdiction in the region where non-Muslims can register a Will under common law inheritance rules. Registering of such Wills began officially on 4th May 2015 and will promote certainty amongst expatriates, promote investment in the region and avoid family members becoming involved in uncertain proceedings often encountered in the UAE Courts.

What are the requirements?

The testator must not be of Muslim faith, must be over the age of 21 years and have assets situated in Dubai. It is not a requirement to have a UAE residence visa. If a testator wishes to make provision for guardianship of their minor children, then the children must be living with the testator in Dubai.

Should you wish to prepare a DIFC Will or should you wish to review your existing Will in light of the aforementioned developments, it is prudent to seek the advice of a Lawyer registered with the Government of Dubai Legal Affairs Department. It is important to ensure that the Will is drawn up in line with the Registry’s legal requirements. Local legal advice should be sought to avoid the risk of the Will being rejected by the DIFC WPR.

Publish date: 29/08/16 15:06
Source: Connector, Published on 01 February 2016

UAE inheritance laws – your questions answered

As if expat life were not fraught enough with challenges and complications, families of those who invest in properties here face further complications in the sad event that the property owner passes away without a will.

Nita Maru, a Solicitor and Managing Partner of TWS Legal Consultants, here shares some legal advice regarding the issue.

How different is the UAE inheritance system from that of other countries?

In the UAE, inheritance for Muslim nationals is guided by Sharia law, while the law of the deceased’s home country can be applied for non-Muslim expatriates. Sharia is not a codified law and is capable of adaption, development and further interpretation. Matters of inheritance coming before the Dubai courts are heard by one or more judges.

Juries are not used. Furthermore, unlike in some Western jurisdictions, there is no system of precedent in Dubai Court or the UAE. In addition, there are many uncertainties regarding real estate inheritance issues. Unlike other jurisdictions, the UAE does not practice ‘right of survivorship’ (property passing on to a surviving joint owner upon death of the other, as would be the case in Commonwealth jurisdictions), and the local courts will need to make the final decisions on property ownership.

This is why the introduction of the new DIFC and Wills Probate Registry (DIFC WPR) is a great option for non-Muslim expatriates preparing DIFC wills to ensure their Dubai property passes to their chosen heirs as per their wishes.

What are the most common inheritance concerns of clients who own property here and what are the solutions?

The most common concerns are from expatriates that have bought property here either in their sole name or jointly with their spouse. They may be confused as to which inheritance laws apply to their assets upon their demise, and usually assume that the laws of their home country automatically prevail over local UAE laws.

As a general rule, inheritance issues in such cases are dealt with in accordance with Sharia. Succession under Sharia principally operates by a system of forced heirship or reserved shares.

For non-Muslims they now have the option of registering a will with the DIFC WPR, which will provide certainty in passing their Dubai estate to their chosen heirs or they can transfer unencumbered real estate into an offshore company. The solutions offered depend on each individual case hence legal advice should be sought from the outset.

Why is it important for expats living in the UAE to have a will, and what are the consequences of not having a will in place?

For expats living in the UAE, there is a very simple reason to make a will; generally the UAE Courts will adhere to Sharia Law where there is no will in place. This means that if you die without a will, the local courts will examine your estate and distribute it according to Sharia law.

All personal assets of the deceased, including bank accounts, will be frozen until liabilities have been discharged. A surviving wife who has children qualifies for one eighth of her deceased husband’s estate, and a surviving husband who has children qualifies for one quarter of his deceased wife’s estate.

The remainder of the estate will be distributed among other family members, depending on who survives the deceased at the date of death. Without a will or succession planning in place this distribution will be applied automatically.

Even shared assets will be frozen until the issue of inheritance is determined by the local courts. There is also no automatic transfer of shares where businesses are concerned. Administering an estate in the absence of a will is often lengthy, costly and complex, not to mention the prolonged disputes with heirs.

What is the most common instrument that is used for passing assets upon death and what are its main characteristics?

A will is the most common instrument used for passing on assets to inheritors chosen by the deceased, and it details how you wish your estate to be distributed after your death. Apart from dictating who should inherit your assets, a will can also be used to specify other wishes such as long-term guardians for your children, executors and specific gifts. One can also take recourse in setting up more strategic plans like establishing a trust or more sophisticated offshore solutions depending on their financial or family circumstances.

Recently I have heard about the new DIFC Wills and Probate Registry. How does the formation of the registry help expatriates with assets in Dubai?

The new DIFC Wills and Probate Registry provides a mechanism for non-Muslims with assets in Dubai only to pass on their assets according to their wishes. The rules provide non-Muslims, resident and/or non-resident in Dubai, with the option and right to choose the way in which their assets are distributed; they will have the freedom to distribute their assets as they wish.

As a “common law” jurisdiction, the use of the DIFC WPR procedure provides certainty and offers a speedy administrative process of a deceased non-Muslim’s estate in Dubai. This is further reinforced by the cooperation process agreed between the DIFC Dispute Resolution Authority and the Dubai Land Department which will facilitate the smooth transfer of property during the stage of succession. In turn this will boost confidence, capital investment and economic growth.

Publish date: 29/08/16 14:59
Source: 7 Days - Ask The Expert, Published on 31 January 2016