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In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the legal framework governing wills and inheritance has been meticulously crafted to promote equitable asset distribution for both Muslim and non-Muslim residents. This article aims to furnish an all-encompassing overview of the stipulations enshrined in Abu Dhabi Personal Law No. 14/2021 (pertaining to inheritance laws) specifically pertaining to non-Muslim expatriates.

Understanding a Will

For non-Muslims residing in the UAE, a will represents a legally binding instrument through which individuals of non-Muslim faith can articulate their desires concerning the allocation of their assets upon their demise. Given the application of Sharia law to inheritance matters for Muslims in the UAE, non-Muslims have the option to draft a will to ensure that their assets are apportioned in accordance with their preferences.

Here are some essential points to consider when it comes to wills for non-Muslims in the UAE:

1. Legal Recognition: Wills drafted by non-Muslims hold legal recognition and enforceability in the UAE, provided they adhere to the specified requirements and formalities.

2. Autonomy in Asset Distribution: Non-Muslim testators retain the freedom to determine the allocation of their assets posthumously. They can designate beneficiaries and specify the share of the estate each beneficiary should receive.

3. Will Registration: To guarantee the legal validity and smooth execution of a non-Muslim’s will, it is advisable to register the document with the pertinent UAE department. Article 13 of UAE inheritance laws outlines the registration procedures for wills made by non-Muslim foreigners.

4. Choice of Applicable Law: As per Article 11 of UAE inheritance laws, heirs of non-Muslim foreigners have the option to request the application of the law that typically governs the inheritance process under the Civil Transactions Law. However, this option is only available if no registered will state otherwise.

5. Will Execution: Following the testator’s passing, the assigned executor or a legal representative will commence the execution process. This involves the assessment and valuation of assets, settling debts or obligations, and distributing the remaining assets among the beneficiaries in accordance with the will’s instructions.

6. Legal Counsel: It is highly recommended to seek professional legal guidance when creating a will for non-Muslims in the UAE. An experienced attorney can provide expert assistance throughout the process, ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations, and assist in the registration of the will if necessary.

Legal Regulations Concerning Wills for Non-Muslims in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Non-Muslims residing in the UAE can attain peace of mind by crafting a will, ensuring their assets are allocated in alignment with their preferences, all within the legal framework of the nation.

I. Article 11 – Inheritance Distribution

Freedom to Determine Inheritance: This provision grants foreign testators the liberty to draft a will allocating their assets to chosen individuals within the UAE.

Inheritance in the Absence of a Will: When a will is not present, the law dictates the inheritance distribution as follows:

a) Spouse and Offspring: If the deceased has both a spouse and children, the estate is divided equally. Half of the inheritance is allocated to the spouse, and the remaining half is evenly shared among the children, without regard to gender.

b) Parents and Siblings: If the deceased does not have children, the inheritance is evenly split between the parents. In the event of one deceased parent, the surviving parent receives half of the inheritance, while the other half is awarded to the deceased’s siblings, with no distinction based on gender.

c) Siblings: If there are no surviving parents, the inheritance is equally divided among the siblings, irrespective of gender.

Choice of Governing Law: With the exception of the provisions outlined in Clause 2 above, if a foreigner in the UAE has not left a registered will, any of their heirs can request the application of the law set forth in the Civil Transactions Law for the distribution of inheritance. This means that the default inheritance rules under the Civil Transactions Law will be applicable unless a registered will dictates otherwise.

II. Section 12 – Protocols for Commencing the Inheritance File and Its Allocation

In order to streamline the inheritance proceedings for non-Muslim foreign individuals, the Chairperson or their designated representative possesses the prerogative to produce a guidance handbook. This handbook delineates the essential protocols to be adhered to when handling inheritance matters concerning non-Muslim foreign individuals.

III. Section 13 – Enlisting Foreigners’ Testamentary Documents

Enrollment of Testaments: The testamentary documents of foreign nationals must undergo registration in a specialized registry specifically established for this objective within the pertinent division. The Department’s Chairman bears the responsibility of issuing directives and instructional documents to streamline the registration and implementation of foreign nationals’ testamentary documents.

Testamentary Document Registration during Matrimony: In the course of entering into matrimony, couples have the option to complete a form for the enrollment of non-Muslims’ testamentary documents. This stipulation empowers couples to define the manner of asset distribution in the event of the demise of either spouse.

You may be interested in A comprehensive manual on transferring property to a corporation in Dubai: everything you need to know.

Conclusion

In the context of inheritance laws in the UAE, there is a strong emphasis on ensuring equitable asset distribution, even for non-Muslim foreigners. While foreign individuals maintain the right to designate beneficiaries in their wills as they see fit, it is important to note that in the absence of a will, specific legal provisions dictate the allocation of inheritance among surviving spouses, children, parents, and siblings. Moreover, mechanisms are in place to facilitate the registration of wills for foreigners and streamline the inheritance process. Non-Muslim expatriates residing in the UAE should familiarize themselves with these regulations and, when necessary, seek guidance from legal professionals to ensure compliance and safeguard their assets and beneficiaries.

You may also read Muslims in the UAE: Essential Information Regarding Civil Wills

For non-Muslims seeking assistance with will creation in Dubai, GA Lawyers stands as a trusted resource. Their team of seasoned attorneys offers tailored consultations to gain a deep understanding of their clients’ needs, crafting comprehensive wills that adhere to all legal requirements. Furthermore, they can assist in the proper registration of these wills to guarantee their legitimacy and enforceability. With GA Lawyers’ expertise, individuals can rest assured that their assets will be distributed according to their wishes, providing a sense of security for the future.

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