Thursday 18th November 2010

Expats in the UAE are being warned of the risks of failing to draft a legally binding will after concerns were raised regarding the application of Sharia law in will cases.

There are currently three potential laws in the UAE that can be applied upon the death of an expat; Islamic Sharia law, UAE law and international law. Islamic Sharia law is an inheritance law that follows a strict procedure for the allocation of assets upon the death of an individual. This distribution is based on Islamic principles and favors male family members. In the event of the death of a male expatriate, the assets of the estate will not automatically pass to his wife but will distributed according to pre-determined levels contained within the law. Quite often the majority of the estate will pass to the male’s own family as opposed to the wife. If a husband and wife have children, for example, the wife will inherit only one eighth of the estate. There is therefore a major risk that any expatriates who do not have a will risk leaving their loved ones without the means to support themselves.

In order to avoid the automatic application of Sharia law, expatriates need to ensure that they have a legally binding will, which is admissible in a Sharia court of law, in place. Under the Personal Affairs Law, non-Muslim expats living in the UAE can opt to use the law of their own countries to determine the distribution, upon their death, of any assets situated in the United Arab Emirates. In order to take advantage of this law, expats in the UAE need to hold resident status and have a law that is legally binding in their domicile country (their home country). This is particularly important for any expatriates who have children, as a formally recognized legal will is currently necessary for appointing guardians for their children in the event that both parents die.

If you are currently living in Dubai, or are considering moving to the United Arab Emirates, and you do not have a legally binding will in place then you should seek advice from an expat legal representative in your area.

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