A Will is a legal document that declares your intentions as to what should happen to all of your assets upon your death. These assets typically include real estate, money, investments, jewellery, vehicles and personal or household belongings that you own. If you wish you can transfer, or bequeath your assets to individuals, families or institutions, either in part or as a whole. A Will can also be used to specify other wishes as well as including the appointment of temporary and permanent, long-term guardians for your children, contributions to charitable causes, and funeral arrangements.
For those that have assets in the UAE there is a simple reason to make a Will. The Government of Dubai official website states that ‘The UAE courts will adhere to Sharia law in any situation where there is no Will in place’.
This means if you pass away without a Will, the local Courts will distribute your estate and appoint guardians according to Islamic/Sharia Law principles. This distribution may have some surprising and unexpected implications which differ from your intentions. If you do not have a Will, once you pass away, it is not possible for your loved ones to enforce or carry out your wishes. Sharia law requires that your personal assets, including your bank accounts, will be frozen until liabilities have been discharged, and then distributed by a predetermined formula. An example of Sharia law’s predetermined formula is that the wife of the deceased will automatically receive 1/8th of the estate if she has children. The proportions will differ if the deceased’s wife does not have children. The distribution of assets according to Sharia law, in such circumstances, can take a long time and, even, several months.
Even jointly held assets will be frozen until the issue of inheritance and succession is determined by the local courts.
Unlike England and Wales and other countries, the UAE does not recognize the survivorship rule. This is a principle that states there is automatic transfer of joint assets in certain circumstances. Instead, each joint owners share will be treated separately and distributed as above.