Inheritance Principles for Non-Muslims in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

UAE INHERITANCE PRINCIPLES – Pt. 2

Children guardianship of Non-Muslims

Either Dubai Courts Registry or DIFC Registry’s wills may further cover guardianship of minor children in case one or both parents pass away. A non-Muslim expatriate would generally appoint his or her spouse as permanent guardian of their children in case of demise. Would one spouse pass away, the other would have full parental authority to make all decisions concerning the minor children while they reside in the UAE.

Testators also appoint a temporary and a permanent guardian for their minor children in the event that both parents pass away. A temporary guardian can be appointed to immediately take care of the children while the permanent guardian, if abroad, makes the arrangements for the trip. The permanent guardian will be the person responsible for future care of the children until they reach adulthood.

In the absence of a guardianship clause or a guardianship will in the UAE, a non-Muslim expatriate wife who lost her husband may be faced with challenges to retain custody of her minor children, as per Sharia law a male relative of the husband is normally appointed with the task.

Inheritance principles for non-muslims in the united arab emirates – Practical Case

The following fictional case is intended to illustrate possible scenarios in case of death of a non-Muslim individual in the UAE.

“Piero is an Italian national married to an Indian national. They are both Christians. They reside in Dubai with their two minor children: a ten year old girl and an eight year old boy. They have bank accounts and an apartment in Dubai. Piero’s parents are alive. He has one brother.”

The distribution of Piero’s UAE assets if he passes away may have different scenarios, as follows:

  1. He left a DIFC Registry will

His inheritance would be governed by the DIFC law which secures testamentary freedom, and all his Dubai assets – including his share in the real estate property – would be distributed as stated in his will. His minor children’s guardianship would be vested in his wife, as also stated in his will. The respective probate procedure would be conducted in the DIFC Courts.

  1. He left a Dubai Courts Registry will

His inheritance would be governed by the law which he elected in his will – i.e. Italian law – and his movable Dubai assets could be distributed as stated in his will, subject to the acceptance of the Dubai Courts of First Instance to apply the foreign law to his succession. Distribution of real estate should still be subject to the judge’s decision. In case the heirs are not satisfied with the decision of the Courts of First Instance, they could appeal to the Court of Appeal and finally to the Court of Cassation.

  1. He did not leave a valid will

His inheritance would likely be governed in accordance with Sharia law. The heirs’ participation in the succession of Piero could be the following:

  • Wife: 12.5%
  • Son: 36.11%
  • Daughter: 18.06%
  • Father: 16.67%
  • Mother: 16.67%

His minor children’s guardianship would be decided at the discretion of the local Court, which will probably favor his brother as guardian of the children.

Conclusion

Undoubtedly the Government of Dubai is committed to providing all residents with the necessary security in terms of inheritance principles for non-muslims in the united arab emirates and freedom to decide how they would like their local assets to be distributed after their death.

This is confirmed by the issuance of the Dubai Law, which aims at adopting the same execution and probate procedures for both Dubai Courts Registry and DIFC Registry. The concerned authorities are still in the process of reviewing procedures in order to fully adopt the new Dubai Law. This is a very positive step and will solve many doubts from non-Muslim individuals who wish to register a will, and wills and probate professionals alike.

A will is an important tool for asset protection and succession planning of non-Muslims in the UAE, despite the costs involved. The creation of specialized wills’ registries for non-Muslims in Dubai has had positive impact both on foreign investors and local authorities seeking foreign direct investment, because a clear and transparent legal environment is now avaiable to investors of all faiths.

Expatriates’ behavior towards investment in corporate and real estate has changed, since more complex structures intended to avoid direct ownership inside the country are no longer required, particularly for inheritance purposes. Instead, one can simply head to one of the non-Muslim wills’ registries and have peace of mind.

For further assistance on how to handle safely matters related inheritances and will in the united arab emirates(UAE) or any family law related issues in the UAE, kindly contact us or you can book an appointment for an online support on any legal matters in the United Arab Emirates(UAE).

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