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Secure the Ones you Love

One of the most devastating things that can happen to any family is the unexpected death of a beloved member. Imagine, if you can, how you would feel if as a result of the death of a loved one, your bank accounts were frozen and family assets were not distributed according to the wishes of the deceased but were distributed according to the law of the land in which you are living.

The reality of the situation is that ex-pat families living and working in the Middle East fail to understand or are normally unaware of the implications of the application of Shariah Law to their assets, their children and in the case of business proprietors, their business. It is therefore imperative that ex-pats explore the necessary steps they need to take ensure that their families are protected and are prepared financially for the unexpected.

Under Shariah Law, a wife who has children receives only one eighth of the estate and without a Will, this distribution is automatically applied and would almost certainly be contrary to the wishes of the deceased husband. Furthermore, all assets, including bank accounts, are frozen until such time as any liabilities have been discharged to the satisfaction of the courts. Surviving family members may be left without access to money until the authorities decide how the estate should be distributed, which could be months or even years.

Not only does the absence of a Will affect the family financially, it can also open doors for the authorities to intervene regarding guardianship of children. This is especially true should the unthinkable happen and death befalls both parents at once. A Will specifying alternative arrangements as to who will raise the children should be in place to fully prepare for this eventuality.

Protection of family legacies in the Middle East is a complicated, often underestimated area of the law and as we have seen Shariah Law probably operates entirely differently from the laws of your home country. It’s therefore important to have the assistance of a fully qualified lawyer to advise on wills and on succession planning coupled with detailed technical knowledge of local Shariah Law to advise you how to best ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.

This article was written by Nita Maru LLB (Hons) UK, Founding Lawyer and Director of Legal Consultancy firm, The Wills Specialists, Licensed by Dubai Legal Affairs Department and The Rulers Court, Government of Dubai. The Wills Specialists understand the enormous implications and importance of making a will as an expat in the UAE. Why not talk to them to find out more?

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