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Death of an expat: Procedures to follow in UAE

When she lost her father, Nishtha Talreja had to figure everything out on her own. Now, she shares her experience for the benefit of other expats

Gulf News

Dubai: Dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult enough. Add to it all the paperwork that needs to be sorted, and it can become incredibly overwhelming.

Nishtha Talreja, an Indian national who works for an insurance company in Dubai, lost her father in January. With her mother and two sisters listed as dependents on her father’s visa, Talreja took it upon herself to see through all the required processes following his death.

It was a daunting task, which took two months to complete.

She said: “The first thing I did was make a list of everything I would need to do. I had to do a lot of research. I asked my colleague for advice, as she had recently lost a loved one, and went through several websites and government portals. There was a lot to consider.”

If there is one golden tip to make the process a little easier, Talreja said it is this – it’s never too early to make a will.

She said: “It’s easy to make a will here, which is recognised the world over. With a will, all your assets are listed and accounted for. It definitely makes it easier.”

Talreja outlines the various procedures she went through, in the hope of guiding other expatriates living in the UAE.

STEP 1: Obtain a death certificate

Time frame: Approximately two weeks

In the UAE: If the death occurs in the UAE, within a hospital, the authorities fill out the initial death report and move the deceased to the government morgue. Morgue authorities then issue a death certificate declaration. But if the death occurs outside a hospital, the UAE’s official government portal advises residents to immediately dial 999 and inform police officials about the incident. The police then fill out an initial death report and move the deceased to the government morgue, after which, a death certificate is issued.

Next, contact the embassy or consulate of the deceased person’s home country in the UAE and inform them about the death for further formalities.

Outside the UAE: In Talreja’s case, as her father passed away in India, she registered a death certificate in India, with the local authorities there. She said: “Have the original death certificate attested by the undersecretary of your state. This might take approximately two to three weeks.”

STEP 2: Attestations

Time frame: Approximately two to three weeks

By attesting the death certificate, family members are able to claim insurance in the name of a beneficiary, settle any legal obligations and resolve property ownership.

In the UAE: Within the UAE, a resident’s death must be registered with three government organisations. The Ministry of Health and Prevention registers the death, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation attests the death certificate and translation, and the Department of Naturalisation and Residency cancels the visa.

Additional steps if the person died outside the UAE:

While researching the attestation process, Talreja discovered that in the case of expatriates who pass away in their home countries, three other governmental organisations are involved.

She had to send her father’s death certificate to the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi, the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Delhi, and then get it attested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation within the UAE.

Fortunately, UAE’s typing offices are able to manage the attestation process in different countries seamlessly, so she didn’t have to travel back to India for it.

She said: “You can approach a typing office, which does translations, attestations, and other services. Typing offices have various channels to get this done for you within a time frame of two to three weeks.”

STEP 3: Translations

Time frame: A week

Once her father’s death certificate attestations were completed in India, Talreja realised the certificate was in Hindi and English. She had to get it translated to Arabic, for local functionality.

Registered typing centres can create stamped, legal translations at a fee.

A list of approved typing centres, is available on the Dubai Health Authority website.

STEP 4: Close the process

Time frame: Approximately one hour

Next, Talreja approached the Ministry of Justice.

She said: “The Ministry of Justice will request to close the document – this means that the translated death certificate, along with a copy of the original, will be attached together and the papers will be folded from the top left and stapled. Then, the Ministry stamps the translated death certificate.”

STEP 5: Appoint a special power of attorney

Time frame: Same day

With so many processes to manage, Talreja shared some advice: “If you are more than two members in the family and have restrictions of time, choose a family member who can perform all the legal formalities on behalf of the entire family. If you don’t appoint a single person for this task, then for every legal formality, all family members will have to go to the various entities.”

Known as the special power of attorney (SPOA), this family member receives the right to the succession certificate, and can deal with immigration procedures, properties, banks, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), utility companies, and so on, on behalf of the deceased.

The requisite SPOA form is available at typing centres in facilities that manage notarisations and attestations, like Al Twar Centre in Dubai.

Talreja said: “Family members will need to carry their Emirates ID cards and original passports. The fees can range from Dh500 to Dh1,000, depending on whether any special instructions are given.”

The form must then be notarised at a notary public of the Dubai Courts, also available at the same centre. Talreja said: “Family members meet with the notary public judge and he will then confirm the details. He will also fill up an application wherein all family members will be required to sign to notarise the SPOA.”

STEP 6: Open an inheritance file

Time frame: Three to four days

Once the SPOA is notarised, this family member is able to manage other legal formalities. The person must head to the Personal Status Court to open an inheritance file for the deceased and apply for a succession certificate. The inheritance file and succession certificate are required for closing the deceased’s accounts with banks, RTA, telecommunications companies and others.

Documents needed for this process are the death certificate, passport copies of the deceased as well as inheritors, a letter from the bank for all inheritors and the SPOA’s notarised form.

The letter from the bank details the bank account and IBAN number for all inheritors. Talreja said: “This is usually free and can be obtained from your bank in a single visit.”

Once the documents are in place and you have the application for a succession certificate in Arabic, the next step is to arrange for two male witnesses. Talreja said: “The court seeks witnesses who are the same nationality as the deceased, and they should be people who know you and your family members well.”

Next, at the Personal Status Court, submit the documents to open the inheritance file. The customer service centre will give the SPOA a file number. Talreja said: “This file number is important as it registers the death of the person and automatically updates all legal entities, about the deceased.”

The judge at the court then calls in the witnesses, to ask them questions about the deceased’s family. The succession certificate is issued within four working days.

STEP 7: Notify and update

Time frame: As per your convenience

With the inheritance file and the succession certificate, the SPOA is able to notify and update the deceased’s status with all organisations.

Dependents – At Al Twar Centre, you can cancel visas of any dependents linked to the deceased — they will have 29 days to exit the country.

Bank – The family member can approach the home branch of the bank and notify them about the death. Talreja said: “We were lucky my father didn’t have any loans. But I would recommend that family members pay off all dues, if any, and in the case of credit cards, they can request to cancel the card.”

The bank’s legal department liaises with Immigration for clearance of the file number, which was registered by the Personal Status Court. Once approved, they can close the account of the deceased and funds can either be transferred or paid in cash, as per bank’s policy, to the SPOA.

Talreja said: “This can take time and you will have to follow up with the bank quite often.”

Car – You can approach the insurance company and have the auto insurance transferred or ask them to issue a new insurance for the car. Once the insurance is in your name, you can approach RTA and get the car transferred to your ownership as well.

Similarly, for utilities and insurance, inform the relevant companies and proceed as per process.

Key resources at a glance

■  Emergency number to call - 999 from anywhere in UAE
■  UAE Government’s official portal - Detailed information on how to report and register a death
■  Dubai Government’s official portal - How to obtain a death certificate
■  Dubai Health Authority - Comprehensive list of typing centres in Dubai
■  Map of consulates - Search for your home country’s consulate on this online map

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