Monday, October 31, 2011

The importance of a Sharia compliant will for expats in the UAE

Since it is Halloween, I’ll take this opportunity to touch on a rather morbid, but very important topic: the importance of a Sharia compliant will for expats in the UAE.



I personally hate discussing the matter. The word will comes up and my first impulse is to change the subject as fast as I can. I don’t know what happens. It suddenly makes death so tangible, so real, so near…

Unfortunately, it’s just one of those things we all have to think about somewhere down the line. And now that I am living here in the UAE, this line has just appeared before me and made me seriously consider writing up a will.

I am not sure if you are aware of this, but did you know that once we become a resident in this country, all aspects of our lives are ultimately governed by Sharia Law (local law, principles and procedures, based on Muslim concepts of family structure and responsibility)?

This means that UAE courts will adhere to Sharia Law in regards to inheritance if you or your spouse dies and there is no will in place. Your family may have to face prolonged legal battles and, in the end, your assets may be disposed of in a way that does not coincide with your wishes.

The first thing that will happen in case of death is that your assets will be frozen. Your family members won’t have access to the money in your bank accounts (even those jointly held) and they won’t be able to receive any final payments or end of service benefits from your UAE employer. How do you plan on settling your bills, debts and mortgages while waiting for this to be resolved?

And it’s not only about money. God forbid you and your spouse die. Have you thought about what will happen to your children if you don’t have a will stating specific instructions about their care here in the UAE, both in the immediate and longer term?

If you have a will back in your home country and feel like you have your back covered, think again. This will and nothing might just end up being the same thing. Even if you have this will attested here in the UAE, it might still not comply with the Sharia Law.

Your safest bet is to have a Sharia compliant will drawn up in the UAE, by a lawyer who clearly understands the Sharia principles. 

When discussing this with friends, please remember that there are a few differences in procedures between the Dubai and Abu Dhabi Courts, so you might get conflicting information.

Try asking your employer for more information on this. The HR department should be able to point you towards the direction of a good and trusted law firm, able to guide you on the best approach to accommodate your family situation and needs and ensure the Sharia Court receives and processes your will confidently and quickly, minimizing stress during such terrible times.

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