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Securing the needs of your loved ones should be top priority. After all the hard-work you put in must not go without making your family happy. This is especially for non-Muslim expats in the UAE. 

How to secure your family’s future

Make a will. Non-Muslim expats with assets (cash, bank accounts, properties) in the UAE should make a will and duly register them in order to secure the future of their loved ones. With a will in hand one can seamlessly pass on their assets and legal guardianship of their children to their trusted person / persons be it family or friends or even a legal entity.

“’The UAE courts adhere to Sharia law in any situation where there is no Will in place. This means if you pass away without a Will, the local courts will distribute your estate and appoint guardians according to Islamic / Sharia Law principles. This distribution may have some surprising and unexpected implications which differ from your intentions. If you do not have a Will, once you pass away, it is not possible for your loved ones to enforce or carry out your wishes. According to the Sharia law the wife of the deceased will receives 1/8th of the estate if she has children. The proportions will differ if the deceased’s wife does not have children. The distribution of assets according to Sharia law, in such circumstances, can take a long time and, even, several months. Even jointly held assets will be frozen until the issue of inheritance and succession is determined by the local courts,” said Ali Sultan Al Haddad, founder of Al Haddad law firm and chairman of Lawyer Business Group in Dubai.

“In the alternative if you do not have a Will and you are an individual with assets in the UAE or have children residing there, then, in the event of a death, Sharia law would apply automatically, regardless of your religion or nationality,” he added.

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The Sharia Law: Explainer in will

Local courts are tasked to distribute your estate and appoint guardians according to Sharia Law principles.

That being said, it is critical to be aware of the Sharia law implications, which may be very different than an expat’s intentions.

For example, for a wife who has children, the maximum that wife can inherit upon the death of her husband, is 1/8th of her husband’s assets.

A husband in the same position can inherit a maximum of ¼ of his wife’s assets.

Furthermore, joint assets do not get passed onto the survivor. Instead, each joint owner is viewed as owning 50 per cent of the asset, and the other 50 per cent will be passed onto the deceased’s family members in the respective sharia law portions.

When it comes to guardianship, the Sharia Law principles regarding guardianship of bereaved children importantly state that on the death of the children’s Father, the Mother has no automatic entitlement to legal guardianship of her own children.

Given the above, having a Will in place is of critical importance when it comes to the protection of your assets and guardianship in the UAE.

Abu Dhabi Courts’ Will

Recently, the Abu Dhabi courts’ Judicial Department launched the initiative to allow non-Muslim expats to register their Wills.

Take this: Making a Will at the Abu Dhabi Courts is one of the cheapest options available and the process to register the legal a Will is seamless and completed very quickly.

For just Dh950 a person can register the Will in Abu Dhabi Courts.

“In comparison, Dubai Courts charges Dh2,200 per person and DIFC Courts charges Dh10,000 per person and Dh15,000 for a couple (husband and wife),” explained Mohammad Marria, founder of Will writing company Just Wills.

Process fairly simple

“This Abu Dhabi Wills registry is a very important development for non-Muslim expatriates to ensure their own wishes can be properly documented and registered with the peace of mind that Sharia principles will not apply to their UAE estates,” added Marria.

Submit application and get approval

The application is submitted online at Abu Dhabi Judicial Department [ADJD] website. The competent employee verifies if the application meets the requirements. A notification by SMS is sent to the applicant with the approval of the application or request of modification. The application fee is paid online through ADJD website.

Processing the application

The applicant can contact the Non-Muslim Wills Registration Office to schedule an appointment for the application processing.

Then the applicant has to visit on the fixed date the Non-Muslim Wills Registration Office to submit the original documents. After completing these procedures, finally the will is legalised and delivered by the Notary Public of the department.

Documents required

• Emirates ID.

• Passport (original and a copy).

• The document “Will” to be legalised, with a sufficient number of copies for all parties concerned and a copy for records.

• Documentation that provide clear proof of the bequeathed property ownership.

• An official translation attested by the Ministry of Justice is required where the document is drafted in a language other than Arabic language.

The location

• Venue: Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (Main Building)

• Timing: 8am to 2pm [Sunday to Thursday]

• Service Fee: Dh950

• Residents can contact for details at 02 651 3257 or 02 651 3262 or email: wills.non-muslims@adjd.gov.ae