Wills and Inheritance in Dubai

Key information about the various types of will available in the United Arab Emirates, and how to go about making one...

When living abroad it's important to understand how the local laws affect your assets within your country of residence and overseas, and to ensure that you have a valid will in place.

Wills must be attested and registered with Dubai Courts to be valid. When drafting a will, it is advisable to hire a qualified lawyer who understands the inheritance laws of the will maker's home country.

Types of Wills

There are two types of wills

  1. Single (for individual persons)
  2. Mirror (for married couples)

Process

A will is written by a licensed estate planner. Then it must be attested by the testator's home country's consulate or embassy in the UAE.

The attested will is then translated into Arabic by an authorised typing centre in Dubai and attested by the Dubai Courts Notary Public.

Information Required

  • Passport copies with valid visas for the will maker, spouse and children
  • Details of executors (full names and passport numbers)
  • Details of interim and permanent guardians of children (full names and passport numbers)
  • Details of how the estate should be distributed
  • Details of gifts
  • A list with proof of assets and liability
  • Contact sheet with information of executors and appointed guardians
  • Details of any business interests or shares (including trade licences)
  • Funeral arrangements

When someone dies in the UAE, their bank accounts (single and joint) are immediately frozen. Depending on the complexity of the case, it may take several weeks or months to obtain access to funds.

Setting up a life insurance policy and/or an off shore bank account will allow immediate access to emergency funds, for example by the surviving spouse.

The Advantages of a Will

If an expatriate doesn't have a legally registered will, the courts will apply Sharia Law to decide who inherits the possessions, property and money of the deceased. A will stipulates exactly how an estate is distributed and in what proportions, and may also avoid unnecessary arguments between family members.

Professional executors

It is advisable to assign a professional executor that is trustworthy and competent in the local laws of the home country. Having a professional executor can help avoid lengthy probate processes and ensure important tax considerations are taken care of.

Reducing taxes

A major benefit of a professionally drafted will is the fact that it can significantly reduce or even eradicate an inheritance tax bill. This is primarily done by establishing trusts which take advantage of tax free allowances such as the IHT Tax Free allowance for UK citizens.

Interim and permanent guardians

For expatriates with children, it is important to assign both an interim guardian and permanent guardian. The interim guardian should be someone local who can immediately care for the children. The permanent guardian will be the person responsible for future care of the children until they reach adulthood.

It is important to assign both types of guardians in case the permanent guardian has trouble coming to Dubai to retrieve the children. Some delays can include gathering funds to travel and obtaining a visa to travel.

Trusts

Setting up a Trust can have a number of significant benefits. Firstly, it is a good way to ensure that funds are not inherited by a beneficiary when they are too young to make best use of them. Basic terms can be put in place to prevent the beneficiary wasting the money or assets. Establishing Trusts also allows the possibility to secure financial provisions for mentally or physically disabled children.

Making provisions for the funeral

People may have quite specific ideas about what they would like to happen when they die, for example, regarding their wish to be buried or cremated, location of the funeral and specific hymns to be sung and readings to be given.