Terence & Joanne have lived in Dubai for the last 25 years. Terence had his own business here with a UAE partner. Like any other expat, Terence opened bank accounts in his own name and also jointly with his wife. With Dubai opening up the property market for expats, Terence decided to invest in the real estate. He registered these properties in his individual name. Life was good until last year when one fine day, Terence had a massive heart attack, collapsed and died. Joanne was always dependent on her husband until he died. She had no clue of what assets he owned, how much he owed, where he had all the bank accounts, where did his real estate investments reside as she had left it in confidence to Terence. She had her car, her ATM and credit cards and she could manage her household without any problems. Suddenly with Terence passing away, Joanne was left to ponder on how to move forward.
She found that the banks had frozen all the accounts including her joint accounts, the car was mortgaged by Terence and so the bank confiscated it. She was suddenly without any money or car and was dependent on friends and family for the first time in her life. When she visited the real estate authority for transfer of his real estate, she was told to approach the court. The lawyer’s advised her that since Terence passed away without a Will, the UAE Shariah Law will apply to his estate. Now for nearly a year she is struggling to make ends meet – on one side take care of her family and on the other get an order from the court for transferring his estate.
While Terence was alive, he never thought that without a Will he would put his wife and children in deep trouble. He struggled every day to provide his family the comforts they deserve, but forgetting that it could all be zero if he died. Unfortunately, this is the story of several expats who pass away here in the UAE without a will. While we come here to provide a better lifestyle for our families, most of us forget to ensure that our assets (‘estate’) are passed on to them with very minimum hassles after our death through a properly drafted Will.
Your “Last Will & Testament” is a document that details exactly what you would like to do to your estate in the event of your death. The document can cover all aspects of your life, from physical assets such as property, investments or cash, to who you would like to look after your children until they are of an age that they can look after themselves.
In the absence of a Will, Shariah automatically applies to both Muslim and non-Muslim estate holders when they pass away in the UAE. Under Shariah, the wife of the deceased receives one-eighth of the total estate, while the children receive one-sixth of the share. For every share received by the daughters, the sons receive twice as much. As the UAE is a Muslim country, all courts adhere to Shariah, the primary source of Islamic law
Expatriates who own property in the UAE should write a will, have it translated into Arabic and notarised at their embassy or consulate, so as to make sure the property is passed on or distributed as one wishes, says Mr. Mohammad Marria, Estate Planner of Just-Wills, a UK based company operating as a franchise in Dubai. If a person dies ‘intestate’, which means the person dies without making a will, ‘inheritance shall be governed by the law of the country of the deceased at the time of death.’ This is according to the UAE Civil Code, Federal Law No.2 of 198, Article 17/1. This law was promulgated to stem confusion surrounding inheritance issues for expatriates.
In the event that the deceased left no will and he was a Muslim, Shariah would apply and any debt would be first paid prior to any other disbursement of property. The UAE law of inheritance is based on Shariah Law which differs greatly to laws which many of us are used to and which places exacting restrictions on how we can request our assets be distributed when we die. Mr. Marria says many people do not understand the possible implications if they die without this vital document. “Your will is the most important piece of paper you will ever sign,” he explains. “It is your last wishes on how you would like your estate to be distributed. And it’s not just about money and property. It is also about safeguarding the welfare of children. Without that document, things could get pretty nasty and messy.” A potential testator should list all of his or her assets and appoint an executor - a person who will make sure that all assets will be passed on to the rightful beneficiaries.
A Will should be made while the maker is in good health, free from emotional stress. A prudent person does not wait for a catastrophe or other compelling reason before making a decision. If you have children and you and your spouse die, do you want to name the guardian of your children, or do you want the court to appoint one? If you do not have a Will, the court, by law, will appoint the guardian.
To listen to Mr. Mohammad Marria and understand the requirements for drafting a proper Will and to address your doubts, Kanara Entrepreneurs - Dubai (KEL) is conducting an event on Jan 15th in India Club on ‘Wills for Expats in the UAE’. All interested, can register and attend this event. - Click Here for more details and registration
Compiled by Ivan Fernandes, Chairman of KE Global. KE Global is a global, non-profit, mutual-benefit corporation founded by successful entrepreneurs to encourage, support and nurture entrepreneurship in individuals originating from the Kanara region
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