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What happens to an expatriate’s bank account if he or she dies unexpectedly in the UAE and does not leave a will?

For the matter relating to Inheritance or if a person dies intestate in the UAE, the provisions of Federal Law No. 28 of 2005 on Personal Status (the ‘Personal Status Law of UAE’) and Law No. 14 of 2021 on Personal Status for Non-Muslim Foreigners in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi (the ‘Abu Dhabi Personal Status Law for Non-Muslims’) are applicable.

Know what happens when a person dies in the UAE without a will

If a person in the UAE dies intestate (without a registered Will) following procedure is followed:

  • Freezing of Bank Account and requirement for Succession Certificate

If a person dies intestate in the UAE, the bank account of the dead will be frozen by the involved bank as soon as it learns of his or her death. After that, a family member who wishes to be one of the deceased’s legal heirs must get a succession certificate from the ‘Court’ in the emirate where the deceased resided.

  • Issue of Succession Certificate

In case the deceased has not registered a will, the Court may issue a succession certificate related to each legal successor’s share based on the application submitted by a legal heir and the evidence of two witnesses, in line with the provisions of the Personal Status Law of the UAE.

  • Filing of inheritance case in the Court by Legal heir

The legal heirs must file an inheritance case in the Court and present the succession certificate and other papers detailing all moveable and immovable assets of the dead, including bank accounts, investments, and personal identity documents.

  • Submission of identification proof and bank details of the Legal heir

The legal heirs must also present identity documents and information on their bank accounts. After deducting loan repayments, credit card debts, penalties, utility bills, and other payables, the Court will allocate the assets to the rightful heirs based on sharing percentages indicated in the succession certificate.

You may want to know: What makes a Muslim Will invalid in the UAE?

Legal provision under personal status law

The Court shall determine the legal heirs of a deceased person who dies intestate in line with UAE Personal Status Law. The legal heirs of a person who dies intestate are defined in Article 321 of the UAE Personal Status Law. It goes like this:

  1. A fixed share for an heir in an estate is known as forced inheritance.
  2. Half, quarter, eighth, two-thirds, one-third, one-sixth, and one-third of the remaining balance are fixed shares.
  3. The two parents, spouses, paternal grandfather or his agnate ascendants, the grandmother who is not linked to the deceased via an heir, daughters, the daughters of the son or his descendants, sisters in the absolute, and cognate brother are the forced heirs.”

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Under Abu Dhabi personal status law

All the non- Muslim expats of the Abu Dhabi are governed by The Abu Dhabi Personal Status Law. According to the provision of the said law, if a non-Muslim expat dies intestate in Abu Dhabi, all his or her belongings, including bank savings, shall be dispersed in accordance with The Abu Dhabi Personal Status Law for Non-Muslims under Article 11 (2) and (3).

As the provision of the said Law, “In the event that a spouse dies intestate, half of the estate shall belong to the other spouse, and the other half shall be split equally among children, without distinction between men and females.”

  • Distribution of property if deceased has no children

If the deceased spouse has no children, the estate is divided equally between his or her parents. The estate is divided equally between either of them in the absence of the other, with the remaining half going to his or her siblings.

  • Distribution of property in the absence of the Parent

In the absence of his or her parents, the inheritance will be divided equally between his or her siblings.

Unless there is a registered will to the contrary, any heirs of a foreigner may request the application of Law applicable to the estate as per the civil code rules.

Also read this: Conditions for Revocation (Cancellation) of DIFC Will for Non-Muslims

The most recent amendments to Federal Decree-Law No. 30/2020 on inheritance are as follows:

The most recent reforms enable ex-pats to use their home country’s Law for inheritance concerns, but the conditions specified will take precedence if a registered will exists. It is a significant departure from earlier regulations requiring Islamic sharia law regarding inheritance when a person dies intestate. However, the deceased’s Law will apply under the new revisions in such cases.

Allow our experience to ease you into the process

Having a Will made in the UAE is the simplest method to prevent difficulties after death. HHS Attorneys can help in this situation. We can assist in resolving succession issues and resolving property inheritance disputes in Court with the help of our UAE-based legal professionals. We may create a Will to safeguard your family’s assets and inheritance before submitting the paperwork to the appropriate authorities for registration, giving you and your family peace of mind.

Call us now to schedule an introductory consultation to learn more.


Hazim Darwish

Hazim Darwish, is a Senior Partner of HHS Lawyers in UAE. Practicing law for almost a decade, he has in-depth knowledge on UAE legislation with particular expertise on legal drafting, contract drafting, labor disputes, family law, and regulatory compliance for business organizations. Hazim Darwish also provides counsel on legal rights and obligations in the UAE to clients, including individuals and businesses subject to investigation or prosecution under Criminal Law by major regulators.