One of the biggest concerns as British Mums in Dubai, is what happens to our children and our estate if we ourselves or our husband should pass away. Although it’s a scary and unpleasant topic, it is necessary to discuss what we’d like to put in place should this happen and to understand how the UAE law works.
Is it necessary to have a Will?
In short, yes, it is important to have a Will in place, whether that is here in Dubai or at home in the UK, as all jurisdictions in which you have assets should be covered. A Will provides the courts and family members with clear instructions in your absence as to how you wish your estate divided and more importantly, who you want to raise your children and how. At an already very unsettling and stressful time, your family members can move quickly to ensure the wellbeing of all involved.
There is a lot of misinformation over social media in Dubai and scaremongering targeting the most vulnerable of us, such as mums with young children. Suffice to say your children will not be taken away. If we go back 50 years Dubai was a desert and when people died, children were cared for by other family members as our children would be at home. If we leave no instructions in place, the police have no idea where our children should go or who they should be with. Putting the correct documentation in place will prevent any need for government intervention, which would only be used in the best interest of the child.
Dying without a Will in place (here or at home) can delay the release of funds which might be needed by those left behind. The law of the land can be applied to your estate and it is not uncommon for probate to take up to a year.
As British expats, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will look at global assets for tax purposes which means a potential delay in settling any other wills you might have in other jurisdictions. The more organized you are the faster probate will happen.
The Law of the Land
When someone dies in the UAE everything in the deceased name freezes so that debts are cleared from the estate and funeral expenses are taken from the remaining estate. A Muslim can write a Will gifting up to 1/3rd of their estate as a charitable event (one of the five pillars of Islam) and the remaining estate is divided out as per Shariah Law.
|Who Inherits||Husband Dies||Wife Dies|
|Mother||1/6th of estate||1/6th of estate|
|Father||1/6th of estate||1/6th of estate|
|Wife||1/8th of estate|
|Husband||1/4 of estate|
|Children||Remainder of estate with boys receiving double share||Remainder of estate with boys receiving double share|
What is expected of the family to settle the deceased estate?
When death is announced the family will receive a Death Certificate. In order to settle the deceased estate, the family must attend the Court of First Instance where they will receive a Shariah Certificate. They then have 30 days to contest the ruling at the Supreme Court. They cannot represent themselves in court which is in Arabic and must hire a local law firm who will charge a fee and potentially a percentage of the estate. This process can take up to a year or longer and will most likely deplete a considerable percentage of the deceased estate.
Who will have temporary and full guardianship of children?
Guardianship and Custody are two different things. The surviving parent is the custodian of the child and in the case of the husband surviving he is automatically the guardian too.
Guardianship involves supervising, protecting, educating and preparing a child for life, and (when required) giving the necessary consent for the child to marry. The guardian makes the decisions regarding a child’s schooling, or medical treatment for example. Guardianship involves guiding the child in the right direction in terms of morals, right and wrong, education and religion.
The custodian is responsible for the nurture and care of the child, and for meeting the child’s day to day needs. The custodian is entitled to have the child live with them. Statutory provisions set out that in most cases, the mother will have custody of young children. In the UAE custody ends for a mother when a boy turns 11 and a girl turns 13.
Without direction it is at the discretion of a local judge to choose a guardian for a child. The local courts will act in the best interest of the child but having to even go through courts without a registered document will delay the outcome at a time that should be focused on the wellbeing of those left behind.
Options Open to Non-Muslim Expats
The cost to register a Will or a Temporary guardianship document in the UAE maybe deemed inhibitive, however this is the most secure route and at the very least a UK Will should be in place. You should also have a bilingual document drafted as an addendum to the Will naming the guardians and temporary guardians. If you do not register this you will need to go through the local courts, hiring a local law firm and understand that local law could potentially override your wishes. Make sure you have a UK Will in place then add and register a temporary guardianship document. Ensure you have a Will written locally which includes a temporary guardianship document and register it.
Mirror Wills for Dubai can cost up to 7,000AED but a reasonable amount to pay is 3,000AED. Abu Dhabi offers a more attractive proposition if it is applicable to your estate.
How to register a Will in the UAE
|DIFC||Dubai Notary||Abu Dhabi Courts|
|Registration Costs||Single Will AED10,000
Mirror Will AED15,000
|AED2,200 per Will||Total Cost including VAT Single Will AED3,035 / Mirror Wills AED5,255|
|Translation Costs||N/A||AED950||AED750 / 950|
|Duration of Probate||5-10 working days||4-8 weeks||4-12 weeks|
|Changes to Wills||AED500 for major changes||Full registration and translation cost each time a change is made||Full registration and translation cost each time a change is made|
- If you register your Will at the DIFC your executors can represent the Will themselves so the above is the total cost.
- In the Dubai Notary a local law firm must be commissioned. This can cost anywhere from AED10,000 plus potentially a percentage of the estate. The local courts are conducted in Arabic.
- In Abu Dhabi the executor can represent the deceased estate or they can choose to work with a local law firm. In the correct circumstances, Abu Dhabi, can be vastly cheaper overall.
- The above prices are Vat Exempt.
I have no assets in Dubai, should I have a Will?
Many people ask this question but in Dubai, dying without a Will in place means settling things can take a long time. At the very least, most people will have bank accounts, cars, car loans, gratuity due from an employer and possible death in service benefits (critical illness cover) that need to be considered. These along with the requirements of children mean that having a Will in place and more importantly registered is money well spent.
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