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Planning For Tomorrow and the Days After

If you have spent years making money and managing it wisely, it is logical that you must pass on your assets to inheritors of your choice, writes Nita Maru.

Unexpected death is devastating enough, but the tragedy only gets compounded with related troubles and traumas ranging from frozen bank accounts to disputed family assets; businesses being handed over to undeserving partners, and sometimes, children being entrusted to people you have not chosen personally. There are also many uncertainties regarding real estate inheritance issues. Unlike other jurisdictions, the UAE does not practice ‘right of survivorship’ (property passing on to a surviving joint owner upon death of the other) and the local courts will make final decisions. If you have spent years making money and managing it wisely, it is logical that you must plan for its future and ensure that your wealth,assets, business, and property are passed on to your family, or to the inheritors of your choice. It is important to know about the instruments you can use to achieve these goals.

Personal planning

For expatriates living in the UAE, there is a very simple reason to make a will. The Dubai government’s official website states that ‘the UAE Courts will adhere to Shari’ah law in any situation where there is no will in place’.

This means if you die without a will, the local courts will examine your estate and distribute it according to Shari’ah law. While this may sound fine, its implications may not be so. All personal assets of the deceased, including bank accounts,will be seized until liabilities have been discharged. A wife who has children will qualify for only 1/8th of the estate, and without a legal will, this distribution will be applied automatically. Even shared assets will be frozen until the issue of inheritance is determined by the local courts, and surviving family members are often left without access to money during this period.

The absence of a will may also goad authorities to intervene in the guardianship of bereaved children, especially when death befalls both parents simultaneously. Unless a will specifies who should raise your children, there is a possibility that their care may be entrusted to others.

Business planning

If you own or co-own a business,whether it be a free zone or an L.L.C, a significant portion of your wealth and your family’s source of income after your death is probably linked to it. It is just as important to plan for its future and ensure its seamless continuity and success. You can take recourse in strategic plans like setting up trusts or engaging in numerous off-shore solutions. Offshore trust formation is a highly effective estate planning and asset protection tool, particularly in the Middle East, where local Shari’ah law prevails.

What a trust offers

The following information will help you determine whether offshore trust formation will fulfil your personal or business objectives. Those that own a business or shares in a business should consider the benefits of having an offshore trust in place.

Asset protection for the settlor and beneficiaries in case of economic, political, family or business uncertainty, for example unexpected divorce or bankruptcy.

Succession planning allowing for the transfer of wealth in a tax efficient and timely manner.

Consolidation and administration of family wealth.

Overcoming problems of obtaining probate (or its equivalent) in several jurisdictions.

Bypassing the local laws in the event of death.

Professional management of assets for the benefit of vulnerable beneficiaries who cannot manage or be trusted to manage their own assets. This could include disabled children, spendthrifts, or persons who might be adversely influenced by third parties.

The trust deed is not a public document and provides confidentiality for both settlor and beneficiary.

But since this is a complex area, it is essential to use professional lawyers who can advise you expertly.

If you don’t have proper plans in place, you simply cannot be sure what will happen after your death: whether your family will be provided for, who will look after your business, and when and how your beneficiaries will actually stand to benefit. It is best to be prepared today for all that may and can happen tomorrow.

Nita Maru
is a British qualified solicitor and founder of The Wills Specialists ( With over 14 years of experience in senior legal positions, including five in the UAE, Nita has authored several articles and essays on asset and wealth protection. Her focus is on safeguarding families, heirs and businesses, under succession and inheritance laws in Shari’ah jurisdictions.

The Wills Specialists is a law firm based in Dubai, dedicated to the business of wills, asset protection, business succession planning, offshore structures and trusts. The firm is accredited by the Government of Dubai Legal Affairs Department, and by the Dubai Ruler’s Court.

Their office location is

Office Suite 1305,
Saba 1 Tower, Jumeirah Lakes Towers.
Tel: +971 4 448 4284,


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