If your family is left behind grieving, stranded and strapped for cash, it won’t be because you did something wrong. It will be because you did nothing.

As an expat living in the UAE you can be forgiven for thinking about the here and now and not contemplating what might happen if you pass away. But it is more important to protect what you have – and your family – by deciding now what to do when faced with death and consider succession planning.

For expatriates living in the UAE, there is a very simple reason to make a Will. The Government of Dubai’s official website states that ‘the UAE Courts will adhere to Sharia law in any situation where there is no will in place’.

Nita Maru, Managing Partner of TWS Legal Consultants in Dubai, shares some frequently asked questions:

My husband and I jointly own a freehold apartment in Dubai. If one of us dies, will the other or our children automatically inherit it? (MJ, Australian, 31)

Nita: In the UAE, inheritance for Muslim nationals is guided by Sharia laws, while the law of the deceased’s home country could be applied for non-Muslim expatriates. However, there are many uncertainties regarding real estate inheritance issues, and expatriate property owners are recommended to make wills to overcome these. Unlike other jurisdictions, the UAE does not practice ‘right of survivorship’ (property passing on to surviving joint owner upon death of the other), and the local courts will make final decisions.

I own property in the UAE and abroad. What are the consequences if I don’t have a will? (NJ, Canada, 46)

Nita: In the absence of a will, you will be classed as ‘dying intestate’. The problem can escalate if you own property in more than one country, and your family can be subjected to prolonged legal battles. In the UAE, the consequences can be far more serious, and your assets may be distributed in a way that is contradictory to your wishes.

If I don’t have a will, is it correct to assume that my spouse will be the automatic guardian of my children? (SM, Africa, 35)

Nita: If you do not have a will, and you die before your child reaches the age of majority, the courts can intervene and appoint a guardian on your behalf. In these circumstances, it is very unlikely that their decision will reflect your wishes.

I have heard some horror stories of financial troubles after a sudden death. Is it true that if my husband dies, our joint bank account will get frozen, and what must we do to avoid this? (SS, British, 44)

Nita: In principle, the bank accounts of a deceased will be frozen until all liabilities such as car, property and personal loans, credit cards, and business debts are cleared. Sometimes, an account gets frozen within hours of a fatality but the procedures for reactivating it are lengthy and complex. These can be avoided or expedited by planning your estate.

My husband runs a company and sponsors me and our children. What effect will his death have on our resident visas, staying in the UAE, and managing his company? (PRT, South African, 28)

Nita: It is a grim reality that upon a sponsor’s death, the family’s visas will be cancelled within 30 days and they will have to leave the country. The future of the company also remains uncertain. We offer various contingency plans for those wishing to stay in the UAE and/or ensure smooth business transition.

 I am still young. When is the ideal age to get my will made? (TH, Singapore, 27)

Nita: For many people, making a will is one of those things that you intend doing someday, but never get around to. Thinking about your own death is not a pleasant activity, but postponing the writing of a will results in dying intestate, leaving you limited or no say in the future of your wealth, assets, business or even children. Bearing this in mind, the obvious answer is that the best time to make a will is ‘now’. Although the process may not be enticing, it will give you the peace of mind that your affairs will be dealt with as you intend.

Please contact us to book a consultation, on how you can protect your family and assets in the UAE. Email us on info@twslegal.ae or call +971 4 448 4284.