What Should You Know About Inheritance and Estate Law of Deceased in UAE?

inheritance law

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January 20, 2021

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On 7th of November 2020 President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, introduced changes to the law of inheritances and deceased's estates in UAE and highlights of such law is outlined in this article by Family Lawyers of Dubai.

Details one should know

Administering an estate is a complex task that requires exceptional expertise and patience, and the smart thing to do would be to approach a legal consultant for it substantial experience in dealing with inheritance cases in both the local and international Courts to ensure matters are finalised in the most efficient manner. One of the changes introduced by this amendment is that when there is not a will in place or no knowledge of what law would be applicable, in such a scenario the law of one's nation of origin would apply, this proves to be a safeguard of the interests of expatriates.

This move effort by the government makes it easier for expatriates to invest and distribute by the medium of their will, provided the will is duly notarized by the Public Notary in UAE. Other particulars that one should be meticulous with are the will shall be translated in Arabic and must provide all the details pertaining to the assets of the testator along with bank account details. The will must be registered before the Judicial Department of the relevant Emirate.

Earlier the Personal Law in UAE permitted the non-Muslim to draft a will and divide the property according to their will in accordance with Article 17(5) of the Civil Law. However, if a foreign national dies without a will, the Civil Law and the Personal Law used to allow the courts to distribute the assets of the deceased according to the principles of Shariah, which had more often than not resulted in conflict within the deceased's family.

This goes without saying that these restrictions were only limited to assets located in the UAE. If the deceased family or heirs were seeking inheritance they ought to proceed in accordance with Article 276 of the Personal Law, and shall submit the following documents:

  • The death certificate, duly legalized,
  • Last domicile of the deceased,
  • Will of the deceased, duly authorized

Although the personal law did allow the request for application of home country law, the law did not expressly set aside the civil code, which lead to a level of uncertainty as to whether a non-Muslim would be considered under Shariah Law or under home country law. In case of a company it is always wise for companies to have either shareholder's agreement or wills in place to decide the transfer of their shares in the company according to their wish, which is in harmony with the existing shareholders as well.

End note

These changes now enable expatriates living in the UAE, and foreigners with real estate investments in the UAE, to specify in their Will, the law which they wish to apply to the distribution of their UAE assets, making them feel more at ease and at home. It is yet another marvelous move to attract foreign direct investment into the country.

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