It’s not a nice thought, but should the worst happen, it’s vitally important that you have your affairs in order, especially while living in Dubai.
Here’s a sobering fact about being an expat in the UAE 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 Shari’ah Law] preference will be given to the closest male relative on the husband’s side of the family,’ says Mohammad Marria, a legal consultant at Dubai-based company Just Wills.
‘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.
Getting your will authenticated is something else you might want to consider, and an attested will cannot be changed, so make sure all the information you want is correct.
‘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 Shari’ah 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 Shari’ah 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.
Just Wills, www.justwills.ae (04 311 6592).