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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 18 August 2018

Explainer: What to do when a loved one dies in the UAE

We detail the legal processes required following a death

The process of registering the death of a loved one in the UAE can be an expensive and time-consuming experience for grief-stricken families.

How the death is recorded depends on if the person dies in a hospital or elsewhere. If outside of hospital, then the process becomes far more complicated.

All told, families should allow up to two weeks to complete the necessary paperwork. Forensic and toxicology reports can require lengthy waits, and documents issued in Arabic may need to be translated.

Vivian Albertyn, founder of Middle East Assistance funeral services, a company which specialises in assisting the bereaved, said it was important that families remain patient.

"If someone dies inside a hospital it's relatively straightforward because the cause of death will be known," he said.

"But if someone dies outside of hospital then this has to be established, and it can take some time.

"Forensics tests have to be completed and families need to be patient as this can't be rushed. Once that hurdle is completed though it's fairly straightforward."

In the event of a death, the first thing a family member must do is inform authorities at a police station nearest to the deceased's home address. Officers will then issue a certificate which must be taken to the Ministry of Health to obtain a death certificate.

The next stage is to notify the embassy of the person’s home country. Staff there will cancel the deceased’s passport and issue a letter, if required, stating there is no objection to remains being flown back to their home country.

According to the UAE government website, once death certificates have been issued, those acting for the deceased must then register the death with three further government departments: the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Naturalisation and Residency.

“You will need to take all of the previously collected documents, including the cancelled passport, to each government office,” states the website.

“The Ministry of Health will register the death for a fee of Dh20, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will attest the death certificate and provide translation for a fee of Dh50, and the Department of Naturalisation and Residency will cancel the visa for a fee of Dh100.”

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Families are then required to return to the police station they first visited with the latest documents. Officers will issue a No Objection Certificate (NOCs), verifying that the body can be embalmed and the deceased’s remains released.

“Separate NOCs might be needed for releasing the body, for embalming at the mortuary and if you wish to convey the deceased to his home country," government guidance states.

Other procedures useful for families to take on board are as follows:

If the deceased is Muslim and is to be buried in the UAE, a death certificate can be issued after the burial.

If families request the body be cremated then this is possible too, provided the deceased is over five years old. Children under five can only be cremated in Al Ain owing to a lack of specialists caskets.

If a loved one is to be repatriated, they must be flown home in a hermetically sealed lead or zinc inner coffin placed inside a wooden one. The deceased’s representatives must also produce death, embalming and embassy certificates before the body can be flown home.

In some cases, a member of the deceased’s family is also required to travel to the UAE to complete legal formalities such as the closing of bank accounts and the sale of property belonging to the deceased.

Finally, if the deceased is a Christian who is not being repatriated, they can be buried at the Christian cemetery in Dubai’s Jebel Ali. The fee for burial is Dh1,000 for adults and Dh350 for children.

The UAE government website states: “Muslim burials must be performed quickly, so the formalities of getting a death certificate and registering the death can be done afterwards.”

Mr Albertyn added that making a will would inevitably smooth the difficulties of losing a loved one.

"It's also crucial that people remember to write down their online banking passwords so family members can access accounts," he said. "This is something people often struggle with in the event of a death."

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