The protection of one’s wealth and legacy are the least understood aspect of life in the UAE. In the absence of a Will, transferring your assets after death could take longer and be more expensive. Whether you’re a Muslim national or non-Muslim expat, having a Will in place, with the help of a legal consultant, is arguably one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your loved ones. It can communicate the arrangements you want for your funeral, how you wish your estate to be distributed, or name a guardian for your minor children.
The UAE’s inheritance law is broad and accommodates everyone irrespective of their religion and nationality. If a non-Muslim expat dies, the law of the deceased’s home country can be applied. For Muslim nationals, matters of inheritance will be guided by the Sharia law.
Governing Laws and Succession
As per the law, two types of heirs are recognized, namely, sharers and residuary. A sharer refers to an individual qualified for a specific offer in the deceased’s property. A residuary is someone entitled to an estate’s residue (by himself, though another, and along with another). The sharers can be any of the following -- husband, wife, daughter, daughter of a son, father, paternal grandfather, mother, grandmother on the male line, full sister, uterine sister, and uterine brother.
While the principal source of inheritance law is Shariah, it is also guided by a few Federal laws, including (1) Federal Law Number 5 of 1985 concerning the Civil Transactions Code or Civil Code, and (2) Federal Law Number 28 of 2005 concerning the Personal Status Law and (3) Federal Law Number 25 of 2017 concerning inheritance, Wills, and probate for non-Muslims living and working in the Emirate of Dubai.
Division of Estate Amongst Heirs
Transferable rights include all the rights pertaining to property, usufruct, and other dependent rights like outstanding debts. It shall also cover the obligations of the deceased, which can be paid off from his estate. Whatever is the residue after making payments shall be distributed among the heirs. A Will attorney shall ensure that everything is in order and handle issues related to documents. For Muslims, the division of estate shall be guided by the following conditions:
1/2 of the property will be given to:
- The husband, if the wife has no descendant
- The daughter, if the deceased has no other children;
- The daughter of the son or his descendants,
- The sister, if she has no brother or sister, a successor of the deceased, father or grandfather;
1/4 of the property will be given to:
- The husband, if the wife has a descendant;
- The wife, if the husband has no descendant.
1/8 of the property will be given to:
- The wife, if the husband has no successor.
2/3 of the property will be given to:
- daughters, if the deceased has no son
- daughters of son, or his successors, if the deceased has no son, grandson of the same degree;
- germane sisters, if there is no germane brother, successor, father, or grandfather;
- consanguine sister, if there is no consanguine brother, germane brother or sister, a successor, father or grandfather.
1/3 of the property will be given to:
- The mother, if the deceased has no successor
- Mother’s children, if there is no successor, the property shall be divided equally;
- The paternal grandfather, if he concurs the estate of germane or consanguine brother and in the absence of forced heirs;
1/6 of the property will be given to:
- The father upon concurring with succeeding descendent;
- The paternal grandfather, if the deceased has a successor if the forced heir is present if his share is less than 1/6 or 1/3 of the remainder
- Mother, along with the successor of deceased
- Grandmother, if she is not ineligible for an inheritance;
Non-Muslims living in the UAE are allowed to draft a Will and divide the property according to their Will as per the Personal Law. But if a non-Muslim die’s without a Will, the courts shall distribute the estate of the deceased according to Shariah’s principles.
Article 17(5) of the Civil Law states that the UAE law will apply to the Wills of non-Muslim nationals no matter where their property is located. The heirs can also request that his home country’s laws be applied as per Article 1(2) of the Personal Law. They must submit the duly legalized death certificate, last domicile of the deceased, and duly authorized Will of the deceased. However, there may be restrictions when it comes to dealing with the assets located in the UAE.
Both Muslim and non-Muslim nationals should appoint a legal consultant specialized in drafting Wills to protect themselves and their assets. Type in ‘law firm near me’ in your search engine or book an appointment with the experts at Motei & Associates! Get advice on how to prepare and register a Will that is specifically designed for your needs. Call them at +971 4 435 5959.