Will registration is not something that many people deal with and value the importance of due to the simple fact that it may feel uncomfortable for testators when planning death-related matters. However, registering a will can actually safeguard against any issues, complications, and expenses that may arise following someone’s death, especially in the UAE.
According to Article 240 of UAE’s Federal Law No. 28 of 2005, a Will is defined as “an act of disposition of the succession after the death of a testator.”
In addition to that, Article 241 stipulates that “A testament can be absolute, at term after death, subject to a valid condition precedent or subsequent.”
Although it is not mandatory to register a will in the UAE, its importance can be concretely reflected in several aspects, the most significant being the protection of the rights and properties of the person deceased according to his own wishes and desires.
The issue at hand gives rise to the following: To what extent does registering a will in the UAE play a vital role in protecting a deceased person’s family and assets?
Let us take for example, the case of an expat who was residing in the UAE and passed away without having registered a will beforehand, leaving behind a woman and several children. In that event, the UAE courts will have to apply the Sharia Inheritance Law, leaving the deceased’s family with nothing because the assets will be automatically transferred to the closest male relative.
We will therefore look further into the importance of registering a will in the UAE and differentiate between the regulations that apply to Muslims and Non-Muslims expats regarding that matter.
First of all, the importance of testament registration will only be revealed when the consequences of its absence emerge, such as frozen bank accounts (single or joint), cancellation of dependent visas, possibility of delayed investments, and likelihood of arguments within the family regarding the distribution of the deceased’s assets.
1. On Muslims
When a Muslim person residing in the UAE passes away, the Sharia Inheritance Law will be applied in the absence of an attested will translating that person’ wishes on the distribution of his own properties. The Sharia Law covers all possible situations in the case where a Muslim person meets their end. It is important to clarify that the Sharia Law will apply in all cases; however, advantages are still to be found if the person deceased has previously written a will. In that case, the person has the right to choose a third party or someone outside his family to be his inheritor or beneficiary. However, this case is only possible if the beneficiary does not receive more than one-third of the deceased person’s overall wealth unless approved by the person’s heirs by law.
2. On Non-Muslims
This is the general rule applied regarding the distribution of the assets of a non-Muslim expat residing in the UAE except for some properties owned by the deceased person in the UAE whereby the Sharia Law would be exceptionally applied. In fact, it is most likely that the Sharia Law will be the Law applicable when a non-Muslim passes away in the UAE in absence of a registered will due to the fact that most of the Laws adopted by the Country of that person’s nationality go against the Sharia Law.
According to Article 17(1) of the UAE Civil Code, the Law applicable to the matter of distributing the assets of the person deceased is that of the Country of the deceased person’s nationality provided that the Law’s provisions do not infringe the fundamental principles of the Sharia Law.
Therefore, it is extremely crucial that non-Muslim expats draft and register a will in the UAE because this would be the easiest and most feasible method they can do in order to have their properties and assets distributed in the manner that they desire and that would ensure the protection and security of their spouses and infant children in the future.
3. Will Registration Procedures
Firstly, non-Muslim expats that are over 21 years old are eligible to draft their will by themselves or hire a lawyer for that matter. It is always advisable though to consult a professional in that field in order not to miss out on any procedural matter required especially that the local Government has granted some workers the authorisation to carry out this activity. In short, there are four main procedures that need to be followed in order to complete the registration of a will in the UAE. First of all, the will should be thoroughly prepared in advance, then it should be translated to Arabic as Dubai Courts require the documents to be translated by a legal translation center registered within the Courts and Ministry of Justice. After that, the registration should be processed at the Dubai Courts notwithstanding the Emirate in which the person wishing to register his will is residing. Once the will is officially registered at the Dubai Courts, then the whole process of registration would be completed as the Dubai Courts can attest a will for all types of assets in all the UAE Emirates.
To sum up, despite that some people would rather avoid the process of preparing and registering a will, it should be considered as an extremely important matter that should always be taken into consideration by those owning assets and residing in the UAE because the whole process of will registration that might seem simple or even inconsequential will definitely save your family from facing unnecessary and unwanted complications and ensure the protection of your own properties, businesses and closest family members in the future.