The inheritance law in UAE has been subjected to a massive change in recent times, especially for expats. Expat is the short term for expatriate, which refers to the citizens of one country residing in another. The majority of the UAE population consists of expats, emigrants from neighbouring countries. Recently, the new inheritance law was introduced which brought in a significant reformation in this area, bringing in a lot of relief for expats in the UAE.
Inheritance for Expats Under the Sharia Law
Under Sharia law, if a Muslim expat passes away without a will, his estates get divided according to Sharia law. Even for some non-Muslim expats, this law prevailed. This means that there was minimal access to the deceased person’s assets, even for family members. Direction from the local court was mandatory for dealing with the fortunes. Delays and financial complications too were quite common during these difficult times.
- Access to Bank Accounts: In case of the death of a spouse, the other one was not able to immediately access the money in the bank account. This was the case even if both jointly created the account. Instructions from a UAE Court had the final say in the matter of frozen bank accounts if a registered will was absent. After the deceased’s debts were paid, the UAE court distributed the assets under Sharia Law. This is a highly time-consuming procedure. Under Sharia Law, most of the assets belonging to the male spouse were to be distributed to certain family members. The wife might end up with just a portion of the assets.
- Guardianship of Children: In the UAE, the custody of a child was predominately awarded to the father. If the child’s father passes away, the protection of the child was granted to the closest male member of the family. The mother of the child could retain the custody of the kid if she decides not to remarry. If the child’s mother passes away, the sole guardianship was awarded to the father. He required a suitable woman (preferably a relative) at home to take care of the infant.
- Inheritance Law for Non-Muslims: Inheritance under Sharia law was different for non-Muslims in the UAE. The law of the country of origin of the deceased family member, if he was a non-Muslim, applied regarding the inheritance, but only if a formal testament was made. The succession of the UAE estate of any deceased non-Muslim expat was allowed to be governed by the home country of the dead. This was done instead of following Sharia law. But there was a lot of uncertainty as well, in such cases, regarding what to do about the assets. There was some confusion as to which law would be applied in the case of non-Muslim expats.
Introduction of the New Inheritance Law in The UAE For Expats
In November of 2020, President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan introduced numerous reformations regarding Inheritance Laws in the UAE. These amendments bring in a shift from Sharia Based laws to a more progressive and secular system. Other than the inheritance laws, reforms have been made regarding suicide, divorce, and the inhabitancy of unmarried couples. These reforms have been met with a lot of enthusiasm by expats. Expats can now live, study and work in the UAE without much restrictions.
After the reformation, expats can now use the laws of their country of origin regarding the division of their assets. Their assets and estates will now not be divided automatically as it was done under Sharia Law. The new inheritance law will be applicable for Muslims and non-Muslims as well, which is an applaudable and secular approach.
If someone wishes that his assets be divided amongst his family members, then it is necessary to have a written testament. It is the easiest way to make sure that your assets are divided according to your wishes. These reforms were mainly made to make sure that the country remains attractive to expatriates. This could also make the UAE a popular destination for foreign direct investment. Therefore, these reforms could be a much-needed positive change for expats and private business owners in the UAE.
Why You Should Create A Will?
Things have taken a turn after the introduction of the new Inheritance law in the UAE. Earlier, the will held some value, but the Islamic or the Sharia Law was above it. This was even more applicable for Muslim expats in the country. Even if you wanted your assets and your estates to be divided amongst your family members after your demise, you couldn’t guarantee it. The Sharia Law prevailed regarding the guardianship of children as well. But after the implementation of the new inheritance laws, your will holds a much greater value.
Creating a will can now help you guarantee that your assets and estates will be divided according to your wishes. This could also help in the application of one’s home country laws regarding the distribution of assets. Our organization, Bin Eid Advocates & Legal Consultants, can help you through all legal procedures to draft the will. As it is our field of expertise, we can avoid making the most crucial mistakes which might put your inheritance in danger. Wills made by unlicensed writers can also result in misunderstandings regarding the deceased’s wishes. So, make sure that you create a valid will by competent professionals like us while you still have time.
The whole world is progressing rapidly, and so is the UAE. Now is the best time to invest, settle or visit the UAE. You can always enjoy a tension-free life in the country, no matter what your religion is.