x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 September 2017

Your Money blog: Frequently asked questions on wills in the UAE

Nita Maru of TWS legal consultants answers five queries ranging from what happens to your bank account if your husband dies to how to ensure your loved ones find your will after you die.

Nita Maru, centre, managing partner of TWS Legal Consultants, answers some of the common questions on what to expect after someone close to you dies. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Nita Maru, centre, managing partner of TWS Legal Consultants, answers some of the common questions on what to expect after someone close to you dies. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

More than 2,000 UAE residents have now registered their will with Dubai International Financial Centre’s Wills and Probate Registry. The registry was set up in May 2015 to help non-Muslims ensure that their assets in Dubai bypass Sharia Law and are handed to the beneficiaries of their choosing.

But while the registry offers peace of mind for some, there are still many unanswered questions over wills in the UAE. Here, specialist Nita Maru, managing partner of TWS Legal Consultants, answers some of the common questions on what to expect after someone close to you dies:

If my husband dies, is it true our joint bank account will get frozen?

In principle, the bank accounts of a deceased will be frozen until all liabilities such as car, property and personal loans, credit cards, and business debts are cleared. Sometimes, an account gets frozen within hours of a fatality but the procedures for reactivating it are lengthy and complex. These can be avoided or expedited with proper planning in place.

My husband runs a company and sponsors me, and our children. What effect will his death have on our resident visas, staying in the UAE, and managing his company?

It is a grim reality that upon a sponsor’s death, the family’s visas will be cancelled within 30 days and they will have to leave the country. In the absence of succession planning, the future of the company also remains uncertain. There are various contingency plans for those wishing to stay back in the UAE, or ensure smooth business transition.

My cousin and I are business partners and equal shareholders in a small business in Dubai. Should I worry about the future, if one of us dies?

In the event of a shareholder’s death, local probate laws are applied to a business, but the results may be unpleasant as shares do not pass automatically by survivorship, nor can another family member take over in lieu. However, arrangements can be secured to avoid local probate and guarantee business continuity.

How does someone find your will after you die?

This is a major challenge for many family members. If your loved ones cannot locate your will, you may as well have not written one. We recommend informing your executors, in writing, of where you have kept it, whether it is in your home, or with your solicitor. One of the advantages of the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry is that your will is kept safe and secure in one location, with only one original. Therefore, the executor and/or family members do not actually need to hold a copy or even look for it as the will is stored safely at the registry.

What options are available to Muslims?

We recommend that Muslims restructure their assets into an offshore structure. There are bespoke options available when it comes to restructuring assets offshore, and the flexibility of these can provide great advantages to our client. However, whether assets can be placed in an offshore structure is a question that has to be explored with clients by means of a detailed meeting and analysis of what they own here in the UAE.

pf@thenational. ae

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