Non-Muslim expats in the United Arab emirates are urged to draft a will to avoid tying up their estates in Sharia law – but the options can be costly and confusing.
Registering a non-Sharia will allows a non-Muslim estate to be distributed according to inheritance rules of a deceased expat’s home country.
But cost-cutting can lead to problems.
The cost of registering a will in Abu Dhabi starts from Dh950 and rises to Dh2,200 or more in neighbouring Dubai courts and Dh15,000 for a couple in the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC).
The advantage is clear – when registered with one of these services, a will is removed from Sharia law.
Choosing the right will
Expats need to ensure the service they choose provides the options they need.
For instance a low cost notarised will registered in Dubai is accepted anywhere in the United Arab Emirates and abroad, while the probate service in Abu Dhabi is more streamlined and cheaper.
Learn more about Expat Wills here
Scottish expats are likely to find a DIFC will appealing as the system is arguably better than the others in following forced heirship laws.
Another issue to consider is whether an online service is better than dealing with a face-to-face specialist.
And why not follow Sharia rules and save the trouble of drafting a common law will?
Under Sharia law, a wife with children only receives an eighth of an estate, while a husband would receive a quarter of his wife’s assets.
Leaving an estate under Sharia law
Joint assets are not passed to the surviving owner. A wife who owns a home 50:50 with her husband retains her share but the remaining equity is passed to the husband’s family in percentages set down by Sharia rules.
Families also need to consider guardianship if a father dies and leaves young children as the wife is not automatically awarded legal guardianship.
Expats also have further estate planning problems if they have cash, property or other assets outside the UAE.
Best advice is for them to draft a will in each country where they own assets to make sure they are left to the people the deceased wants to have them.
Inheritance rules differ between countries, which can lead to lengthy and expensive court rulings about how to divide wealth if no clear will is left by the deceased.