Thursday, March 10, 2011

How Expatriates protect their money and property and distributed after his or her death in UAE

"Since the UAE is a Muslim country, all courts adhere to Sharia laws in regard to inheritance in case of no wills. However as a result of the Personal Affairs Law (No 28 of 2005), a non- Muslim expatriate who is resident in the UAE can opt for the law of their Domicile Home Country to be applied to the distribution of their UAE assets, provided they have a legally recognized will".

An informal survey of lawyers in Dubai who advise clients on freehold property investment reveals that only about 5% of buyers are aware of the laws regarding non-Muslim, foreign nationals and the purchase of freehold property. If you have a legal will and you want your home country laws to apply to the way your inheritance is distributed to heirs, your case will have to be proved before a UAE judge.
As property investors in the UAE start to focus on the long term, they will seek more clarity on how their freehold property ownership could be passed on to their descendents when they die. It is a controversial issue, still open to many interpretations, and at present one that sparks intense debate among lawyers.
The rule in the UAE is that the home country law of the deceased will apply to general, non-real estate matters of inheritance only, and this principle has been confirmed by various judgments issued by the local courts.If you are a non-Muslim expatriate and want your home country laws to apply to the way your inheritance is distributed amongst your heirs, they or their legal representatives would be required to bring a case before a judge in a UAE court

For example in 2000, the Dubai Court of Cassation (Supreme Court) issued a ruling (No. 49 & 50) that in matters of personal status, such as marriage, inheritance and succession, claims made by non-Muslim, foreign nationals would be decided by a UAE judge using the home country law of the non-national as the rule of reference. However, there is a caveat, being that this should only be the case if the country from which the non-national comes from, itself has an inheritance law in place. Also, only if there are no UAE legal conflicts with the home country law. These aspects would be investigated and determined by a judge.
Make a will and register it
A will is a legal document declaring a person's wish about how his or her money and property are to be distributed after his or her death.
As UAE is a Muslim country, all courts adhere to the Sharia in regard to inheritance for Muslim expatriates and Emiratis.

But despite the fact that UAE courts only accept transactions related to marriage, divorce and other issues only from Muslims of any nationality, they also accept wills from expatriates of any religion or nationality as people belonging to Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh faiths reside in UAE.

Expatriate Muslims and non-Muslims who are on a visit visa cannot make a will here, and in case they die here the law of the country will not be implemented in their case.

Expatriates with valid residency visa can make a will and get it registered and legalised at the courts.
The will must be legally approved and attested by the authority from the person's home country, before it can be authorised here as genuine and legal.
If the will gets authorised by the expatriate's home country authorities, then the wishes of the person can be followed regarding disposal of money and property.
But according to UAE Federal Law No. 2 of 1987, Article 17(5) on disposal of property: "The law of the UAE shall apply to wills made by aliens disposing off their property located in the UAE."

The UAE has allowed foreign ownership of land in some areas in Dubai and in some other emirates, but no new law has been issued as to whether Sharia would apply to property owned by non-Muslims.
Expatriates who own property in the UAE should write a will, have it translated into Arabic and notarised at their embassy or consulate, so as to make sure the property is passed on or distributed as one wishes.
If a person dies 'intestate', which means the person dies without making a will, 'inheritance shall be governed by the law of the country of the deceased at the time of death.' This is according to the UAE Civil Code, Federal Law No.2 of 198, Article 17/1. This law was promulgated to stem confusion surrounding inheritance issues for expatriates.
In the event that the deceased left no will and he was a Muslim, Sharia would apply and any debt would be first paid prior to any other disbursement of property.
Procedure: Documents needed
•Expatriates of any nationality or religion can make a will at the courts here.
•You need to have a valid residency visa.
•The person making the will needs to visit the court. The presence of two Muslim men as witnesses with him or her to attest the application of the will is also important. This is even if the applicant is not a Muslim.
•Original copies of the ID of the applicant and witnesses have to be submitted.
•Payment of Dh60 fees for application.
•You need to appear before a judge with your witnesses for an examination of the will application.
•The applicant needs to submit documents which should be authorised by his or her country, regarding the terms of the will.
•You will later return to court to receive the certificate after submitting all the information.
•But if you wish to cancel the will, you will have to return to court with the witnesses and pay a Dh60 fee and submit all needed documents to get the will annulled.

Notably, the UAE is not a common law jurisdiction, so unlike the UK and India, court decisions are not binding on future decisions the courts make. All court decisions are purely discretionary.