x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Ensure you have access to cash if your husband dies

Our consumer advocate takes readers' questions on what happens to your wife if you die without a will in the UAE, a cancelled Etihad flight, and the tax implications of doing freelance work for UK-based companies.


What happens if a person working here, such as a husband, dies without leaving a will? What can we do to avoid the worst? I have heard many things, but want to clarify with someone who has proper knowledge. Also, is it possible to make a will back home and will that be valid? A close friend lost her husband a year ago in their hometown, but she faced problems as they had a business in Dubai. - MR Abu Dhabi

If a person dies intestate, or without a will, this can cause issues. Sharia law will be applied to any assets that are held in the UAE and this causes most complications in the event of a husband's death. This is because his assets are frozen and will only be released upon the advice of the local courts. Any UAE bank accounts in the man's name will also be frozen, even those in joint names, and vehicles in his name will be impounded. This happens very quickly. Assets are distributed by the courts in accordance with Sharia law and traditional rulings dictate that the bulk of assets could be passed to the closest male relative. A will should be written in accordance with the laws in your home country. In most cases, this can be done in the UAE and will be valid if notarised by the relevant embassy. While there is no guarantee that this will be observed by the UAE courts, to date there has not been a case where it hasn't and I would expect the wishes in a properly written and attested will to be followed. A few points to note: there is no need for a will to be translated until death and doing so at outset is just another cost. There is no such thing as a Sharia-compliant will; just one that takes into consideration the rules of the relevant countries. People should not make a separate will for the UAE as that could invalidate a will made in their home country - only the last will is considered the proper legal document. Although the monies in bank accounts that are frozen and any impounded vehicles will eventually be accessible, this can take a long time. All women should have access to a bank account in their sole name, either here or in their home country, so they are not left without funds.

I cancelled a flight with Etihad on August 15, which was paid for by a combination of cash (Dh4,070) and air miles. Despite contacting Etihad several times, it has not refunded either the cash or the miles. The call centre has said it does not know when either the cash or the miles will be refunded and there is nothing it can do to help me. I also emailed Etihad, only to receive a reply saying they would endeavour to look into the issue - again, with no result. Surely Etihad is in a position to be able to refund its customers, particularly its frequent flyers, on a quicker basis? I have cancelled flights before with other airlines and none of them have taken so long to reimburse me. Etihad's lack of customer service and unwillingness to provide a proactive customer-facing service seems to suggest that when customers have issues such as this, they will simply give up in frustration and lose both money and miles. CM Abu Dhabi

It is clear that the matter was not handled properly by staff at Etihad. I referred the query to Etihad and Lee Shave, the vice president of guest experience, said: "It is always disappointing to learn that we have not performed to our usual high standards of customer service. The fare and miles have been fully refunded to CM's account and we have compensated her for the inconvenience. I am pleased to say that CM has accepted this offer and also our apology for not responding to her sooner." CM is happy with the outcome because her costs were refunded in full. Etihad also refunded the cancellation fee and gave her some additional miles under its frequent-flyer programme as a gesture of goodwill.

I am the director of a company in England and am looking to send work to an ex-colleague who moved to Dubai 18 months ago. The ex-colleague will provide remote IT support to my business and specialist recruitment services. I am looking for information regarding any potential tax implications for myself and the provider of IT and recruitment services. I understand this chap will remain in Dubai for the next five years and is likely to want to send any money earned on this contract to the UK to pay off a mortgage. LR UK

You would be paying this person as a contractor and he would need to invoice you. From your point of view, he is the same as any contractor or freelancer so your company would have no liabilities. Your former colleague is the person who could have a liability to UK income tax. The tax liability depends on his personal status and where the work is physically carried out. Provided the work takes place outside of the UK and he is deemed a non-resident for tax purposes, then he should not be liable for income tax.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com