Pre­par­ing for the worst

As an ex­pat, it’s im­por­tant to have a plan in place for your demise

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - ask@7days.ae

If your fam­ily is left be­hind griev­ing, stranded and strapped for cash, it won’t be be­cause you did some­thing wrong. It will be be­cause you did noth­ing.

As an ex­pat liv­ing in the UAE you can be for­given for think­ing about the here and now and not con­tem­plat­ing what might hap­pen if you pass away. But it is more im­por­tant to pro­tect what you have - and your fam­ily - by de­cid­ing now what to do when faced with death and con­sider suc­ces­sion plan­ning.

Nita Maru looks at what you can do to plan for the un­think­able:

Per­sonal Plan­ning The Gov­ern­ment of Dubai’s of­fi­cial web­site em­pha­sises that “The UAE Courts will ad­here to Sharia law in any sit­u­a­tion where there is no will in place”.

This means that if you pass away in the UAE with­out hav­ing planned your fam­ily’s fu­ture, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties will ex­am­ine your es­tate and dis­trib­ute it ac­cord­ing to Sharia law, which may dif­fer greatly from what you in­tend. With re­gards to real es­tate in­her­i­tance is­sues un­der Sharia Law, the UAE does not prac­tise ‘right of sur­vivor­ship’ (where prop­erty passes au­to­mat­i­cally to a sur­viv­ing joint owner upon death of the other).

Mean­while, per­sonal as­sets, in­clud­ing bank ac­counts, will be frozen un­til li­a­bil­i­ties have been dis­charged. Shared as­sets will also be frozen un­til the is­sues of in­her­i­tance are de­ter­mined, and fam­ily mem­bers are of­ten left with­out ac­cess to money dur­ing this pe­riod.

Dy­ing in­tes­tate (with­out a will) could also leave debts un­paid un­til the es­tate is fi­nally dealt with by the courts, and your fam­ily’s on­go­ing fi­nan­cial re­quire­ments are met.

Pre­serv­ing your busi­ness

As a busi­ness owner, a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of your wealth - and your fam­ily’s main source of fu­ture in­come - will be tied up in your busi­ness. The suc­cess of your es­tate plan­ning is de­pen­dent upon this busi­ness be­ing trans­ferred smoothly, or sold to a third party

for a fair price. Ei­ther way, it takes con­sid­er­able plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion, and should be ranked high on your pri­or­ity list.

If you do not have a proper busi­ness suc­ces­sion 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.

All busi­nesses - whether sole pro­pri­etor firms, part­ner­ships, lim­ited li­a­bil­ity com­pa­nies or free zone cor­po­ra­tions - should plan for the trans­fer, suc­ces­sion and/or sale when faced with the death of an owner.

Safe­guard­ing your fam­ily

If you are par­ents, a will can be used to spec­ify who must look af­ter your young chil­dren af­ter your deaths. The ab­sence of a will may per­suade au­thor­i­ties to in­ter­vene in guardian­ship mat­ters, es­pe­cially when both par­ents die si­mul­ta­ne­ously, and there is a pos­si­bil­ity that their care may be en­trusted to those you may not want.

If you are mar­ried, it is wrong to as­sume that your spouse will get/in­herit ev­ery­thing you own. Sharia Law is based on a fixed share al­lo­ca­tion sys­tem for the dis­burse­ment of as­sets, and a wife is en­ti­tled to re­ceive only one-eighth of her de­ceased hus­band’s to­tal es­tate if they have chil­dren.

DIFC Wills and Pro­bate Reg­istry

The new regime from the DIFC: The ‘DIFC Wills and Pro­bate Reg­istry’ (the Reg­istry) pro­vides cer­tainty for non-Mus­lim ex­pa­tri­ates to pass on their Dubai es­tate in the event of death to their cho­sen ben­e­fi­cia­ries. It also al­lows non-Mus­lims to pre­pare wills to cover the is­sue of guardian­ship.

In or­der to reg­is­ter a will at the reg­istry, the tes­ta­tor must be of non-Mus­lim faith, over 21 years of age, have mi­nors liv­ing with them in Dubai (if a guardian­ship pro­vi­sion within the will is re­quired) and/or have as­sets in Dubai.

Ex­pa­tri­ates that are con­tem­plat­ing pre­par­ing a DIFC will or those that have ex­ist­ing wills may wish to seek pro­fes­sional le­gal ad­vice from li­censed and reg­is­tered law firms in Dubai re­gard­ing the op­por­tu­nity the Reg­istry avails.

It is im­per­a­tive that ex­pats ex­plore the nec­es­sary steps they need to take to en­sure that their fam­i­lies are pro­tected and are pre­pared fi­nan­cially for the un­ex­pected.

You should be pre­pared to­day for all that may and can hap­pen to­mor­row.

Nita Maru is Man­ag­ing Part­ner and Solic­i­tor at TWS Le­gal Con­sul­tants, Dubai, a law firm spe­cialised in pri­vate client mat­ters in­clud­ing wills, in­her­i­tance, fam­ily and di­vorce. For more de­tails call 04 448 4284 or visit twsle­gal.ae.

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