Wills and Estates / United Arab Emirates
Very briefly, Sharia law operates according to a fixed share system. What this means, for example, is that a husband would inherit a 1/2 share in the deceased estate where there are no children but if there are children his share is then reduced to 1/4.
As concerns the wife, where the husband has died childless, she is entitled to a 1/4 share of his estate but where there are children, her estate is reduced to 1/8.
If the deceased leaves behind a daughter, she will stand to inherit half of the portion of a son. If the deceased has more than one daughter they are entitled to 2/3.
The general law with estates is that, on death, your assets will be dealt with in accordance with the laws of that country, which would mean that your assets in the UAE would be subject to the laws of the UAE, namely Islamic Sharia Law.
This posed a problem for expatriates living in Dubai as the dictates of Sharia Law more often than not did not coincide with the personal choice of the person involved.
In 1987 a Federal Law was passed (No. 2 of 1987 – Art 17(5) which states that the law of the UAE will be applied to wills made by expatriates in relation to their immovable property located in the UAE.
Fortunately The Personal Affairs Law (No. 28 of 2005) was subsequently promulgated, stating that a non-Muslim foreigner, resident in the UAE can opt for the Laws of his own country to operate in respect of his assets.
It is uncertain, however, whether this law includes immovable property and much debate has arisen around this issue.
What is certain however is that a foreigner living in Dubai should definitely have a will drawn up in the UAE in order to have his assets dealt with in accordance with the laws of his home country and his own wishes.
Various protective mechanisms have been set up by legal authorities to prevent one’s immoveable propery from being dealt with in accordance with Sharia law. These range from off-shore companies or trusts to interparty agreements. The legal advice in this regard varies according to one’s particular circumstances and we will be happy to advise you of the best route to take to cater for your specific needs.
We will also advise you on joint bank accounts, off-shore accounts, liquidity requirements, visa cancellations and other practical considerations that you need to be aware of.