Gulf News 28 April 2014

Non-Muslim Filipinos urged to prepare wills

Filipinos urged to make wills for family to avoid forced inheritance distribution

    • By Janice Ponce de Leon, Staff Reporter
    • Published: 21:00 April 27, 2014
    • Gulf News


Dubai: Non-Muslim Filipinos in the UAE have been urged not to treat making wills a taboo and instead draft one to ensure their assets go to their intended beneficiaries.

In the UAE, distributing inheritance classified as movable assets such as cars, jewellery, shared stocks, cash and bonds, is based on the deceased’s national laws according to Article 17 of the Civil Transactions Law. But immovable assets such as real estate properties are governed by Sharia law.

In the absence of a will, however, assets of non-Muslims will likely be distributed based on the Sharia law, which comes as a form of forced heirship that favours male heirs in the family.

“Because in our culture we find these things [writing wills] off, just like when we talk about death, even if you’re in the Philippines, it’s like a taboo subject,” Atty Barney Almazar, a licensed UAE legal consultant and partner at Gulf Law, toldGulf News on the sidelines of the Marriage and Family Laws legal aid seminar at the Philippine consulate on Saturday.

Almazar said many Filipinos assume that the laws of their land are applicable in the UAE that is why they don’t bother to execute a will. But this is not always a guarantee, Almazar said.

“Having a will is very important for [expatriates] here in the UAE because there is a provision in the UAE Civil Code that the national law of the deceased will be applicable. But at the same time, there is also a provision in the same civil code that UAE Law should apply. So there is apparent conflict.”

Non-Muslim expatriates should ensure that once they draft a will, all their assets, including their end-of-service benefits and joint bank accounts, are included so as not to paralyse the surviving spouse and children.

Only about one to two out of 10 expatriates in the UAE take legal steps towards asset distribution, according to a 2013 report of the Ministry of Interior’s monthly publication, 999 Magazine.

During the forum, Undersecretary Carmelita Ericta, Interim National Statistician of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in Manila, reminded Filipinos to be careful with civil registration matters such as applying for birth or marriage certificates as even seemingly small mistakes could cause problems.

“One wrong letter or wrong name could result to opportunities lost. If you have a wrong entry in your birth certificate, you forego benefits from insurance, et cetera, and your identity is questioned,” Ericta told Gulf News.

“So if you have an inheritance, there are financial implications.”

Ericta said that while these mistakes can be corrected, the process may take time and money. Her office has so far processed more than one million corrections since 2003. It is unclear how many of these come from Filipinos in the UAE.

Lourdes Hufana, Director 3 at the PSA, said the problem starts with registering newborns. If there’s a mistake in the initial process, the problem compounds as the child grows up.

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