Claiming inheritance may be complicated if the deceased did not leave a will
Things get even more complicated when the deceased dies in a foreign land with different sets of laws from his or her home country.
“Whenever death is the issue [in the UAE], the first thing you need to consider is the nationality of the deceased and his religion. Also, you need to ask if he has a last will and testament,” Atty Barney Almazar, director of the commercial department of Gulf Law in the Middle East, the UK and the Philippines, toldGulf News.
“After that, determine the assets he left behind, be it movable such as bank accounts, jewellery, cars, or immovable like properties or condominiums, villas. If the deceased is a Muslim, Sharia will be followed.”
Almazar said having a last will and testament for non-Muslim expatriate will help their families stake their claim in asset distribution. The deceased’s wishes will be honoured because, under the Civil Transactions Law of the UAE, if the deceased is a foreigner and a non-Muslim, inheritance shall be governed by his national law. But note that whether you have a will or not, fixed assets in the UAE are subject to Sharia.
In a landmark move, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) earlier in May launched a Wills and Probate Registry that will allow non-Muslims to register a will in English under the internationally recognised Common Law. This will enable them to distribute their assets according to their wish upon their death.
“This will registry is an additional option for non-Muslim expatriates who have wills. The advantage here is instead of going to Dubai Courts where everything has to be translated into Arabic and heard using Sharia, you can proceed with your will in English and use the internationally recognised Common Law,” Almazar said.
For more information, visit http://difcprobate.ae/.
If a non-Muslim expatriate family member died but he or she did not leave a will, you can still prove your claim to his or her assets.
1) Go to the court to request Probate Proceedings. This is the venue where the claimant can prove that he or she is the rightful heir. The judge will ask questions and ask for documentary evidence.
2) The documents needed are: Proof of death or death certificate, authenticated marriage certificate (if spouse is the claimant), authenticated birth certificate (if the claimants are the children).
3) If you want to apply your national laws, provide a copy of the law authenticated by the corresponding authorities. Note that photocopies of the books/law are not acceptable. It has to be the official copy of the law from the issuing body.
4) Also include copies of the deceased and the claimant’s standard identification documents: passport and visa copy, Emirates ID.
5) Note that all documents presented in court need to be legally translated into Arabic. Documents coming from abroad need to be authenticated by the corresponding Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Once all the documents are complete, if your case is simple, meaning no one contests your claim or there are no other issues, in a matter of one to two months, the case will be settled. But the question is, what’s the time frame to complete the documentary requirements?” Almazar said.
If the deceased had any liabilities or outstanding debts at the time of death, these will be settled first before the distribution of assets. Hence, a portion from the estate will be used to settle the account.
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