What happens to your belongings if you die in Dubai?
How much do you know about how for your loved ones might be affected should the worst happen to you while living in Dubai? Gemma White learns there are many strong arguments for getting a Will drafted
Admittedly, a conversation that starts along the lines of: ‘Hey, honey, can we talk about the fact that the universe is mysterious and could kill either of us off at anytime?’ isn’t everyday or natural. Yet unfortunately, death is a fact of life, and making sure you find the time to write a Will could save those you leave behind a great deal of logistical anguish.
‘A Will is a document you draft in your lifetime and is what you wish to leave to someone else when you die,’ says Mohammad Marria, a Legal Consultant at Dubai-based company Just Wills. ‘You can choose how your estate is to be distributed; who takes care of the kids, and your funeral arrangements.’
Here’s a sobering fact about being an expat in Dubai without a Will: in the event of a man’s death, the mother of his children may not get custody.
‘If your husband dies in the UAE, [under Sharia law] preference will be given to the closest male relative on the husband’s side of the family,’ explains Marria.
‘Culturally guardianship is given to the father’s side; or the mother may get custody providing she doesn’t remarry.’ Additionally, naming interim guardians of your children will see them avoid being placed in state care until permanent guardians arrive from your home country.
‘Guardians travelling to the UAE to take custody of children may have to apply for a visa, which may take time,’ says Marria. ‘In your Will you can nominate someone to look after them for you.'
‘For those who have appointed interim guardians for their children, we suggest you give one set of notarised Wills to your sponsor company’s HR department,’ adds Yvonne Tsui, Principal Director at Expat Wills. ‘This ensures your wishes are known by your sponsor and the UAE Government.’ And with the Dubai Government recently allowing the Dubai Notary Public department to authenticate non-Muslim foreigner’s Wills for UAE assets, there’s something else you might want to consider.
‘In the UAE you receive gratuity and maybe company life insurance posthumously, but people tend not to look at their full net worth when drafting their Will,’ says Marria.
‘I had a case with a Will-less gentleman: when he died, his employer paid out Dhs1 million in life insurance and it ended up in the courts for two years. In the end the brother of the deceased got the lion’s share [rather than the wife].’
‘With Sharia Law, money and assets go to the family rather than just one person,’ explains Marria.
‘Take a family with young children; if the husband dies and his wife gets all the money and then remarries, her new husband could take that money. But if the wealth is distributed to everyone, no one is left out.’
So, what are the most important things to take into consideration when drafting your Will as an expat living in the UAE?
‘Non-Muslims should include the line, “I am not a Muslim, I am a [insert religion here]”, along with, “I do not want UAE law to be applied, but rather the laws of my home country”,’ says Marria, as Sharia Law is applied to anyone who dies without a Will in the UAE, regardless of their religion.
Also, when shopping for someone to help put your Will together, look for a company that is regulated by the Legal Affairs Department.
Marria points out that there is one thing you can’t cover – ‘Bank accounts will still be blocked irrespective of the Will.’ But in the face of all other realities, should the worst happen, this is no argument for not getting this important personal admin done. Contact Mohammad Marria at Just Wills at email@example.com, (04 311 6592); Yvonne Tsui at Expat Wills Yvonne.firstname.lastname@example.org, (04 509 6807).
Free Legal Advice In Dubai
DIFC Courts If you are in need of legal advice, book an appointment at the Pro Bono Legal Clinic at the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts, where you can speak to volunteer lawyers for free for a 30-minute period. DIFC (04 427 3333)
Al Rowaad Advocates & Legal Consultancy The Sheikh Zayed Road-based consultancy offers a free initial 15-minute telephone consultation for new clients. www.awf.ae (04 325 4000).
Deaifs Advocates & Legal Consultants This Dubai law firm has a free consultancy facility – on a variety of services – available online through the firm’s website, where you can also upload relevant documents pertaining to your concern. www.deaifs.com (04 342 5552).