Dubai: A clash within the UAE's law can leave grieving expatriate families with less than they were due to receive from a loved one's will.

In one case, a British woman's husband died. The deceased husband had children from an earlier marriage, surviving parents, and there was the wife and her two children. Instead of being a 100 per cent beneficiary — as per her deceased husband's will — she ended up with a share of only 12.5 per cent. Why is this?

According to Cynthia Trench, Principal of Trench & Associates Legal Consultants, a clash within the UAE law has led to different interpretations of the law.

"In the UAE Civil Transactions Code, Article 17 (1) states: ‘Inheritance shall be governed by the law of the deceased at the time of his death.' However, Article 17 (5) states: ‘The law of the UAE shall apply to wills made by aliens disposing of their real property located in the State'," Trench told Gulf News.

"Furthermore, the Sharia Court of First Instance applies Article 2 of the UAE Civil Transactions Code, which states: ‘The rules and principles of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) shall be relied upon in the understanding, construction and interpretation of these provisions'," she said.

In addition, the UAE Personal Status Law "is silent as to the inheritance rights of foreigners in possession of UAE real estate. It is important to note in the event of the death of any owner of a property, the property would not necessarily pass entirely to the deceased owner's spouse or the beneficiaries named in his will," Trench said.

The Federal National Council (FNC) is currently considering an amendment of the Personal Status Law.

In another case, a UK national's wife died. Although he was named as 100 per cent beneficiary under her will, her parents [who are entitled to inherit a share of her estate under Sharia Law] decided to file a claim for their entitlement.

He put up a fight at the Sharia Court and after 20 months and spending more than Dh50,000, he finally managed to persuade the Dubai Courts to uphold the Foreign Will.

"The question is," Trench asked, "why are the courts not enforcing foreign wills?" This, among others, will be a topic of discussion at the Asset Protection Symposium: The Impact of Laws on Inheritance ending today.

Gulf News could not get hold of the Grand Mufti of Dubai to comment despite repeated attempts.


  • What: Asset protection symposium
  • When: Today, 9.30am-5pm
  • Where: Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce