A Will is a legal document that declares your intentions as to what should happen to all of your assets upon your death. These assets typically include real estate, money, investments, jewellery, vehicles and personal or household belongings that you own. If you wish you can transfer, or bequeath your assets to individuals, families or institutions, either in part or as a whole. A Will can also be used to specify other wishes as well as including the appointment of temporary and permanent, long-term guardians for your children, contributions to charitable causes, and funeral arrangements.
Wills for UAE Assets
For those that have assets in the UAE there is a simple reason to make a Will. The Government of Dubai official website states that ‘The UAE courts will adhere to Sharia law in any situation where there is no Will in place’.
This means if you pass away without a Will, the local Courts will distribute your estate and appoint guardians according to Islamic/Sharia Law principles. This distribution may have some surprising and unexpected implications which differ from your intentions. If you do not have a Will, once you pass away, it is not possible for your loved ones to enforce or carry out your wishes. Sharia law requires that your personal assets, including your bank accounts, will be frozen until liabilities have been discharged, and then distributed by a predetermined formula. An example of Sharia law’s predetermined formula is that the wife of the deceased will automatically receive 1/8th of the estate if she has children. The proportions will differ if the deceased’s wife does not have children. The distribution of assets according to Sharia law, in such circumstances, can take a long time and, even, several months.
Even jointly held assets will be frozen until the issue of inheritance and succession is determined by the local courts.
Unlike England and Wales and other countries, the UAE does not recognize the survivorship rule. This is a principle that states there is automatic transfer of joint assets in certain circumstances. Instead, each joint owners share will be treated separately and distributed as above.
As for business interests, such as share ownership, in the event of a shareholder or director’s death, Sharia law would again apply and his/her shares do not pass automatically by survivorship. Therefore your business interests can end up in the hands of family members you did not wish to have a stake in your business. This would apply to both mainland and free-zone companies.
Another important issue is how Shariah law applies to the guardianship of your children. For instance, if the deceased is the father of children, then the mother has no automatic entitlement to legal guardianship of her children.
Therefore, the importance of having a will your assets and children cannot be over-stated. You should be prepared today for all that may and can happen tomorrow.
DIFC Wills & Probate Registry
On Sunday 3rd May, 2015 the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) opened its own Wills and Probate Registry (the “Registry”). This is a very important development for non-Muslim expatriates; as it ensures that if a will is registered with the Registry, Sharia law will not apply to the individual’s assets in the UAE. This landmark development aims at promoting investment in the region and allows beneficiaries and family members to avoid lengthy court proceedings and uncertainty in the event of a death. Only non- Muslims may register their Will with the Registry
To create even more certainty, the Registry works in conjunction with the Dubai Land Department, the Dubai Economic Department, and other government departments to ensure that the DIFC Will is binding and enforceable with all relevant departments. This ensures there is no issue with the distribution of property and other assets under a DIFC Will. This will also protect your assets from any unlawful transfers.
Wills for Business owners
We understand that business owners have special needs and critical questions when growing and preserving the wealth of their businesses, including inheritance plans, succession matters, and transfer of assets and maintaining the interests of business partners and other beneficiaries. It is also likely that a significant portion of private wealth is tied up in the family business, so special consideration needs to be given to the various issues that can arise. Another important fact to consider in the UAE is that company shares do not pass automatically by survivorship and are subject to probate in the case of a shareholder’s death. This often results in lengthy processes that affect the operations and profitability of the business. We have business succession specialists to prepare wills and provide appropriate solutions that address all key issues pertaining to business ownership and protection.
Wills for Assets in the UK
We have a team of UK qualified solicitors and therefore one of our specialist areas is preparing Wills for UK nationals or individuals owning assets in the UK. We can prepare a suitable Will with respect to the testator’s UK estate and advise on the same. Our UK Wills comply with all the requirements of the laws of England and Wales.
To obtain more information about Wills, please contact one of our experienced Wills & Inheritance lawyers. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +971 4 448 4284.