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Having a Will in place in their country of origin is regarded by many Expatriates as essential planning when they move to live and work abroad, offering peace of mind in the event of a tragedy.
However many Non-Muslim Expatriates in the UAE are unaware that in the absence of a legally registered Will in the UAE, the process of transferring assets after death can be extremely time consuming, costly and fraught with legal complexity. This could mean that assets accumulated during their time in the UAE may not go to their loved ones as they would have intended.
You may think that you have no assets but have you considered what would happen to:
There is no rule of survivorship in the UAE. Therefore if you have a joint bank account, then on the death of one of the account holders, the bank account will be frozen and funds unattainable until a Court Order is received.
If you have children and have not appointed a guardian for them under the terms of your Will, then it would be at the discretion of the Local UAE Courts as to who would become your child’s guardian and how your assets would be distributed. In such circumstances local laws would apply.
An executor is a person named by the testator to carry out the instructions of the Will. The executor’s duties include distributing property to the beneficiaries as designated in the Will, obtaining information of potential heirs and collecting and arranging for payment of debts of the estate.
A beneficiary is a person who is set to inherit from an estate when someone passes away. This might be money, possessions, property or stocks and shares – anything that the person who has died left behind.
A residuary beneficiary is someone who will receive all or part of an estate after all debts, taxes and specific gifts have been taken care of.
The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department has rules relating to succession and inheritance matters for Non-Muslims holding assets in the UAE. The new Office allows non-Muslims with assets in Abu Dhabi and other Emirates to have the option to deal with their estates as they so choose. It also offers flexible legal options, where previously there was inflexibility, to assist non-Muslim families in the event of death.
The DIFC Wills Service Centre released new rules this year to allow Non-Muslims to include all of their worldwide assets in a DIFC Will. The DIFC Wills Service Centre allows eligible non-Muslim individuals to formally register their English language Wills according to the principles of testamentary freedom, enabling them to choose to dispose of their UAE or worldwide based assets upon death as they see fit.
All Wills can now be registered virtually through a video conferencing call with the DIFC Wills Service Centre or the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department. Individuals will be required to upload all documents and ID’s prior to the virtual registration appointment, during which the Authorised Officer will review the Will with the individual, in the presence of the witnesses via video link and complete the registration formalities.
The Dubai Local Courts allow non-Muslims to notarise a bilingual Will before a Notary Public. Non-Muslim expatriates, with assets in the UAE can make a Will under the law of their home country, to govern succession to his or her UAE estate instead of Sharia-based rules.
Non-Muslim expatriates with assets in the UAE now have the ability to register Wills that create legal certainty for the inheritance of their assets after death and the appointment of guardians for their children. This not only allows individuals to have testamentary freedom to dispose of their assets as they wish, it also provides peace of mind that an individual’s estate will be distributed according to their wishes.
An incorrectly drafted Will can cause many complications after a person has passed away. If the terms of the Will cannot be interpreted correctly, then the Will will be deemed invalid; the person will have passed away without a valid Will and Sharia Inheritance Rules will apply to their estate. Therefore it is of the utmost importance to instruct a legal professional to draft your Will.
Our specialist Private Client Lawyers at Al Tamimi & Company offer a FREE initial consultation to assist you in effectively registering a Will, to ensure it is legally sound and provides piece of mind to each testator.