FAQ – Wills and Estate Planning

Mr A and Mr B are business partners and equal shareholders in a LLC company in Dubai. Their business is growing rapidly and they are extremely successful. Should Mr. A worry about the future, if one of them dies?
In the event of death of either shareholder, local probate laws apply and this may not meet the succession requirements of either as the shares do not pass automatically by survivorship in this jurisdiction. However, it is possible to secure arrangements to avoid lengthy local probate and guarantee business continuity.

If my husband dies will our joint bank accounts get frozen?

In principle, the government will freeze accounts until all liabilities of your husband are cleared such as loans, credit cards and business debts; this can happen within one hour of a fatality! The procedure for reactivating the accounts is complex, however the process is expedited where a UAE wills in place, another reason to make sure you have one!

Mr and Mrs Smith buy a villa in Dubai in joint names. Suddenly Mr Smith meets with a fatality in a car crash.
He has no will in place. As there is no will in place, the property will be distributed as per Shariah law meaning that Mrs Smith could receive only 1/8th of her husband’s estate despite the property being in joint names.

If I am an expatriate with bank accounts in Dubai, will making a will help my family if these accounts get frozen?
The speed with which you can get an account unblocked is much quicker with a will than in the absence of one. Without a will, more documentation is required and the process is more time consuming.

My husband runs a company and sponsors me and our children. What effect will his death have on our resident visas, staying in the UAE, and managing his company?
It is a grim reality that upon a sponsor's death, the family's visas will be cancelled within 30 days and they will have to leave the country. In the absence of a will, the future of the company also remains uncertain. There are various contingency plans for those wishing to stay in the UAE and/or ensure smooth business transition.


If I don't have a will, is it correct to assume that my spouse will be the automatic guardian of my children?
If you do not have a will, and you die before your child reaches the age of 21, the courts can intervene and appoint a guardian on your behalf. In these circumstances, it is very unlikely that their decision will reflect your wishes.

Mrs Smith, a mother of three, has recently become a widow and she understandably assumes that she will automatically be the legal guardian of her children. A court hearing has been set.
The guardianship of Mrs Smith's children will be decided by a Dubai court under Sharia law and in many cases the guardianship will often be appointed to the father-in-law, of the family. If a will had been in place then the wishes of the father would not have been questioned.

I own property in the UAE and abroad. What are the consequences if I don't have a will?
In the absence of a will, you will be classed as 'dying intestate'. The problem can escalate if you own property in more than one country, and your family can be subjected to prolonged legal battles. In the UAE, the consequences can be far more serious, and your assets may be distributed in a way that is contradictory to your wishes.


We recently bought our villa in Dubai in joint names. Will I automatically inherit that property upon my husband's death?
The general rule is that inheritance issues for Muslim nationals, will be dealt with in accordance with Shariah, and for foreigners, the law of the deceased's home country will apply. There is however some uncertainty with the law surrounding inheritance issues for UAE real estate owned by foreigners and for this reason it is advisable to make a will to clarify a deceased's wishes regarding the disposal of his estate. This is reinforced by the fact that although you have property in joint names, in the UAE there is no 'right of survivorship' concept found in other jurisdictions (i.e. where property passes to the surviving joint owner upon death of a joint owner). Ultimately the courts will decide on a case by case basis.


I am still young. When is the ideal age to get my will made?
For many people, making a will is one of those things that you intend doing someday, but never get around to. Thinking about your own death is not a pleasant activity, but postponing the writing of a will results in dying intestate, leaving you limited or no say in the future of your wealth, assets, business or even children. Bearing this in mind, the obvious answer is that the best time to make a will is 'now'. Although the process may not be enticing, it will give you the peace of mind that your affairs will be dealt with as you intend.

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