In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the laws regarding wills and inheritance are designed to ensure the fair distribution of assets for both Muslim and non-Muslim residents. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the provisions outlined in the Abu Dhabi Personal Law No. 14/2021 (inheritance laws) specifically concerning non-Muslim foreigners.
What is a Will?
A will for non-Muslims in the UAE is a legal document that allows individuals of non-Muslim faith residing in the United Arab Emirates to specify their wishes regarding the distribution of their assets after their death. Since the UAE follows Sharia law, which governs inheritance matters for Muslims, non-Muslims can create a will to ensure that their assets are distributed according to their preferences.
Here are some key points regarding will for non-Muslims in the UAE
- Legal Recognition: Wills made by non-Muslims are legally recognized and enforceable in the UAE, provided they meet the requirements and formalities.
- Freedom to Determine Distribution: A non-Muslim testator has the right to determine how their assets will be distributed after their death. They can specify the beneficiaries and the proportion of the estate that each beneficiary should receive.
- Registering the Will: Non-Muslims should register their wills with the relevant department in the UAE. This registration process helps ensure that the will is legally valid and can be executed smoothly when the time comes. Article 13 of the UAE's inheritance laws outlines the procedures for registering the wills of non-Muslim foreigners.
- Choosing the Applicable Law: According to Article 11 of the UAE's inheritance laws, heirs of non-Muslim foreigners have the option to request the application of the law that would typically govern the inheritance process based on the Civil Transactions Law. However, this option is available only if no registered will state otherwise.
- Execution of the Will: Upon the death of the testator, the appointed executor or a legal representative will initiate the process of executing the will. This involves gathering and valuing the assets, paying off any debts or liabilities, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as per the instructions outlined in the will.
- Legal Assistance: It is recommended to seek professional legal advice when creating a will for non-Muslims in the UAE. An experienced lawyer can guide individuals through the process, ensure compliance with the relevant laws and regulations, and assist in registering the will if necessary.
Legal Provisions relating to will for Non-Muslims in the UAE
By creating a will, non-Muslims in the UAE can have peace of mind knowing that their assets will be distributed according to their wishes while taking into consideration the legal framework of the country.
I. Article 11 - Distribution of Inheritance
- Right to Determine Inheritance: According to this provision, foreign testators have the freedom to create a will that designates their assets to individuals of their choosing within the UAE.
- Intestate Succession: In the absence of a will, the law stipulates the distribution of inheritance as follows:
a) Spouse and Children: If the deceased has a spouse and children, the estate is divided equally. Half of the inheritance goes to the spouse, and the other half is equally distributed among the children, regardless of gender.
b) Parents and Siblings: In case the deceased has no children, the inheritance is divided equally between the parents. If one parent is deceased, the surviving parent receives half of the inheritance, and the other half is granted to the deceased's siblings, without any distinction between males and females.
c) Siblings: If the deceased has no surviving parents, the inheritance is divided equally among the siblings, irrespective of gender.
- Choice of Applicable Law: Except for the provisions mentioned in Clause 2 mentioned above, if a foreigner in the UAE has not left a registered will, any of their heirs can request the application of the law outlined in the Civil Transactions Law for the inheritance distribution. This means that the default rules of inheritance under the Civil Transactions Law will apply unless there is a registered will that states otherwise.
II. Article 12 - Procedures for Opening the File of the Inheritance and its Distribution
To facilitate the process of inheritance for non-Muslim foreigners, the Chairman or their representative has the authority to issue a guidance manual. This manual outlines the necessary procedures to be followed when dealing with the inheritance of non-Muslim foreigners.
III. Article 13 - Registration of the Foreigners' Wills
- Registration of Wills: Foreigners' wills should be registered in a dedicated register established for this purpose within the relevant department. The Chairman of the Department is responsible for issuing decisions and guidance manuals to facilitate the registration and execution of foreigners' wills.
- Will Registration during Marriage: Spouses can fill out a form for the registration of wills for non-Muslims when signing their marriage contract. This provision enables spouses to determine the method of fund distribution in the event of either spouse's death.
Read more: Why Should You Register a Will In Dubai
The UAE's inheritance laws prioritize fair distribution of assets, including for non-Muslim foreigners. While foreign testators have the right to leave a will to whomever they deem appropriate, in the absence of a will, the law specifies the distribution of inheritance among the surviving spouse, children, parents, and siblings. Additionally, provisions exist for the registration of foreigners' wills and the facilitation of inheritance procedures. Non-Muslim foreigners residing in the UAE need to be aware of these laws and, if necessary, consult legal professionals to ensure compliance with the regulations and to protect their estates and beneficiaries.
HHS Lawyers in Dubai provides expert assistance with will creation for non-Muslims. Their experienced lawyers offer personalized consultations to understand clients' needs and draft comprehensive wills that comply with legal requirements. They can also assist in registering the will with the appropriate department to ensure its validity and enforceability. HHS Lawyers' expertise ensures clients' assets are distributed according to their wishes, providing peace of mind for the future.