The Ultimate Guide to Inheritance Laws in UAE

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inheritance law in UAE
Inheritance Law in UAE

The Inheritance Law in UAE is guided by UAE Personal Status Law and which outlines the rules and regulations surrounding inheritance in the country. This law provides a framework for the distribution of assets upon the death of an individual, ensuring that the process is fair, transparent, and in line with Islamic law. Inheritance is a crucial aspect of personal law, as it deals with the devolution of an individual’s property and financial rights to their beneficiaries.

In Islamic law, the concept of inheritance is viewed as a duty of the deceased individual to ensure that their assets are distributed according to their wishes and in accordance with Islamic principles. This law is based on the principles of equality, justice, and fairness, and it is considered to be one of the fundamental pillars of Islamic law. The UAE Personal Status Law takes these principles into consideration, and it is designed to ensure that all individuals receive their fair share of inheritance, regardless of their gender, race, or social status.

The law provides a comprehensive set of guidelines for the distribution of an individual’s assets. It outlines the specific rights and obligations of each beneficiary, including the rights of spouses, children, and other relatives. The law also provides guidance on how to calculate the share of each beneficiary, taking into account factors such as their relationship to the deceased, their financial situation, and other relevant circumstances.

One of the key features of the UAE Personal Status Law is its recognition of the rights of female beneficiaries. The law provides equal rights and protections for both male and female beneficiaries, ensuring that women are not disadvantaged in any way when it comes to inheritance. This is in line with the principles of Islamic law, which provides equal rights and protections for both men and women.

In the UAE, inheritance cases are dealt with by the Personal Status Courts. These courts have the power to hear and decide on a wide range of cases, including disputes over inheritance, child custody, and divorce. The courts follow a process of investigation and fact-finding, and they make decisions based on the evidence presented to them. This ensures that all cases are dealt with fairly and justly, and that the rights of all parties are protected.

In the UAE, the process of inheritance can become quite complicated when the deceased has not left a will behind. The UAE follows Islamic law in matters of inheritance, which can sometimes lead to disputes among family members. In such cases, the assets of the deceased are distributed among the heirs according to the provisions of the law. However, this may not be in line with the wishes of the deceased, which is why having a registered will is essential.

What is a Will as per UAE law?

A will is a legal document that outlines how a person’s assets should be distributed after their death. It provides a clear and concise plan for how their assets will be divided among their heirs. In the UAE, it is possible to make a will in accordance with the country’s laws and regulations. The will should be written in a clear and concise manner, and it should specify the distribution of assets and property, as well as any other provisions that the person wishes to make.

Having a registered will in place provides peace of mind to the deceased and their loved ones. It eliminates the uncertainty and confusion that can arise when the assets of a deceased person are divided among their heirs. The registered will is legally binding and will be enforced by the court in the event of a dispute. This means that the deceased’s wishes will be respected and their assets will be divided as per their instructions.

However, it is important to note that in the UAE, a will must be registered with the local courts. This ensures that the will is properly recognized and that the deceased’s wishes are carried out. In addition, it is recommended that a will be reviewed and updated regularly, as the law and circumstances may change over time. A will that is outdated may not reflect the wishes of the deceased and may cause problems for their heirs.

Major Changes to Inheritance Law in UAE

The establishment of a Dubai court to examine inheritance disputes involving both Muslims and non-Muslims is a significant development in the legal landscape of the UAE. With a growing population of expatriates from all over the world, there has been an increased need for a court system that can address the unique legal needs of the multicultural community. The Dubai court, which was set up in September 2022, is equipped to handle cases involving assets worth close to Dh1 billion, and has already dealt with 16 cases in the short time since its inception.

The court’s jurisdiction extends to all inheritance disputes that arise within the UAE, regardless of the religion or nationality of the parties involved. This is a significant departure from the traditional system of inheritance law in UAE, which was previously governed by the religious laws of the individual’s home country. For instance, Muslim citizens of the UAE were subject to Islamic inheritance law, while non-Muslims were subject to the law of their home country. This created a patchwork of legal regimes, which often resulted in conflicting rulings, making it difficult to resolve inheritance disputes.

UAE inheritance Laws for Non Muslims

The inheritance rights of non-Muslims in the UAE are regulated by Articles 11 and 12 of Federal Decree-Law No. 41 of 2022, on Civil Personal Status.

As per Article 11(2), if a non-Muslim dies without leaving a will, their assets will be divided as follows:

  1. Half of the inheritance will go to the spouse and the other half will be split equally among the children.
  2. In the absence of children, half of the inheritance will be given to the spouse and the other half will be divided equally between the deceased’s parents.
  3. If only one parent is alive, half of the inheritance will go to the spouse, while the other half will be divided into two parts: one part will go to the surviving parent, and the other part will be shared equally among the deceased’s brothers.
  4. If there are no parents, the entire inheritance will be divided equally among the deceased’s brothers.

Under Article 11(1), a person can specify a recipient for all their assets located within the UAE. Additionally, according to Article 11(3) of the Civil Personal Status and Article 17(1) of the Civil Transactions Law, the heir of a foreign person may apply the law of their home country for the distribution of assets, unless otherwise stated in a registered will. If a foreign person has no heir, their assets in the country will be held by the government.

The procedure for inheritance will be determined by a Cabinet decision, as specified in Article 12 of the law.

Inheritance Law in UAE for Muslims

The inheritance rules for Muslims under Sharia law are extensive and precise, encompassing more than 40 articles. However, before delving into the specifics, it is important to consider certain factors while determining the assets of a deceased Muslim:

The determination of inheritance can only take place once the funeral expenses and outstanding debts of the deceased have been settled. In the presence of a will executed by the deceased, assets will be divided according to the will, and any remaining property will be distributed as per Sharia. The testator is restricted to bequeathing no more than one-third of his assets in the will and must adhere to certain limitations in terms of who can inherit. If there is no will, assets will only be distributed according to Sharia. The identity of the heirs must be confirmed by two male witnesses and with supporting documentation. A non-Muslim cannot inherit from a Muslim. If a person intentionally kills another with the intention of benefitting from their assets, they will not be entitled to a share of the inheritance.

What is Forced Inheritance as per Inheritance Law in UAE?

According to Article 321 of UAE law, certain heirs have a fixed share in the assets and cannot be excluded unless they do not exist. These shares are divided and distributed according to Articles 322 to 328 under specific conditions. The following is a breakdown of the fixed shares:

  1. Half of the inheritance will go to: a. The husband if the wife has no descendant b. The daughter if she is the only child of the deceased c. The daughter of the son or his descendants if there are no higher degree descendants of the deceased d. The germane sister if there are no other siblings or descendants of the deceased e. The consanguine sister if there are no other siblings or descendants of the deceased
  2. One-fourth of the inheritance will go to: a. The husband if the wife has a descendant b. The wife if the husband has no descendant
  3. One-eighth of the inheritance will go to: a. The wife if the husband has a descendant
  4. Two-thirds of the inheritance will go to: a. Two or more daughters if there is no son of the deceased b. Two or more daughters of the son or his descendants if there are no higher degree descendants of the deceased c. Two or more germane sisters if there are no other siblings or descendants of the deceased d. Two or more consanguine sisters if there are no other siblings or descendants of the deceased
  5. One-third of the inheritance will go to: a. The mother if there are no descendants or siblings of the deceased b. Two or more of the mother’s children if there are no descendants or paternal grandfather of the deceased c. The paternal grandfather if he concurs with more than two consanguine siblings and no forced heirs of the deceased
  6. One-sixth of the inheritance will go to: a. The father if he concurs with a descendant b. The paternal grandfather c. The mother with a descendant or two or more siblings d. The grandmothers if not debarred from inheritance e. The daughters of the son or his descendants with a single consanguine daughter or a single son’s daughter of a higher degree if there is no higher degree descendants of the deceased f. The consanguine sisters with a germane sister if there are no other descendants or siblings of the deceased g. The single uterine brother or sister if there is no father or paternal grandfather of the deceased
  7. One-third of the remainder will go to: a. The mother with the spouse and father if there are no descendants or siblings of the deceased b. The paternal grandfather if he is with a forced heir and more than two siblings or consanguine siblings and the one-third share is better than the one-sixth share.

Can individuals who are not Muslim use the laws of their home country when making a will?

Non-Muslims have the option to utilize the laws of their home countries when creating a will. According to Article 17 of the civil law, they can request to apply any law from any country. This law has been updated by Federal Decree-Law number 30, which took effect on September 30, 2020.

In order to use the laws of their home countries, non-Muslims must provide justifications for their choice and submit a translated copy of the most recent version of the law.

When there are conflicting requests from beneficiaries to apply different laws, this is referred to as a “clash of laws.” In such cases, the court may ask that each applicant provide the updated law and the legal basis for their request.

If the will doesn’t specify which law to apply, then the laws of the UAE will be utilized.

Types of Wills recognized by UAE law

According to UAE law, there are two forms of recognized wills. The first type is one that allocates a portion of the inheritance to a specific person, but does not identify other inheritors. In such cases, the beneficiaries are required to obtain an inventory, which can be conveniently requested online and received within 24 hours.

An illustration of this type of will is when a man bequeaths 20% of his monetary assets to his wife, or designates one of his sons as the manager of his business, but fails to mention the distribution of the rest of his assets or the identity of other beneficiaries.

Where can wills be registered in UAE?

Wills in the UAE are not officially registered with any government agency. However, some private companies offer will registration services, such as:

  • Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Wills & Probate Registry
  • Emirates International Accreditation Centre
  • Dubai Courts
  • Dubai Municipality

It is important to note that while these private companies offer registration services, they do not have the legal authority to enforce the will. The enforceability of a will in the UAE depends on the provisions of the UAE Civil Code, the UAE Personal Status Law, and the Sharia law.

Does the UAE court system recognize wills from foreign countries?

Wills issued from foreign countries can be recognized by the UAE court, but they must go through a translation process, attestation, and notarization. This process ensures that the will is valid in the UAE and can be legally enforced.

Circumstances where a foreign law relating to wills not be enforced in the UAE

If a person passes away and leaves behind real estate properties located within the United Arab Emirates, the UAE law will take precedence in the distribution of the inheritance. However, if the foreign law that governs the deceased’s estate permits a clause in the will that is in contradiction with the UAE’s legal principles, it may not be recognized or enforced in the UAE. This is because the UAE’s legal system is built on the principles of Islamic law and Shariah, which dictate that certain aspects of inheritance distribution cannot be altered by individual wills. In such cases, the UAE law will override any conflicting provisions in the will, and the inheritance will be distributed according to the UAE’s legal guidelines.

Do inheritance cases in the UAE take a long time and cost a lot of money?

Inheritance cases in the UAE can be a time-consuming process, often taking longer than the initial two days of opening a case file. This is due to several reasons, one of which is the number of beneficiaries involved in the case. When there are more than 12 to 14 members, the process of distributing assets and settling disputes can become quite complex and lengthy.

Another factor that contributes to the length of legal proceedings is the need to correspond with various establishments and departments. This includes the deceased’s employer, land departments, banks, and public departments in the emirate and country. These institutions are crucial in determining the deceased’s assets, entitlements, and debts, which must be taken into account during the distribution of assets.

Furthermore, inheritance cases that involve wills that are not clear or lack legal elements also tend to take longer. This is because the court must first clarify the intentions of the deceased and the validity of the will before proceeding with the distribution of assets.

In conclusion, while opening a case file in the UAE is relatively quick and straightforward, the actual process of legal proceedings can take much longer due to the various factors involved. From the number of beneficiaries to the need to correspond with multiple establishments and the presence of unclear wills, the legal system must take these factors into account to ensure that inheritance cases are resolved fairly and efficiently.

How can Inheritance procedures be expedited in the UAE?

The process of inheritance in the UAE can be made more efficient by utilizing the services offered by the Dubai Inheritance Court. The court allows the heirs of an estate to directly communicate with the relevant departments and speed up the procedures by providing a permit and all necessary official documents.

Moreover, the court takes proactive measures to ensure the smooth and timely resolution of inheritance matters. This may include re-contacting the departments or assigning one of the court’s representatives to visit them and facilitate the process. By doing so, the court helps to expedite the inheritance procedures and ensure that the heirs receive their due entitlements in a timely and hassle-free manner.

Is it common for the UAE Court to impose a freeze on bank accounts in cases of inheritance disputes?

In cases of inheritance disputes, the court does not immediately freeze bank accounts. Instead, the beneficiaries of the inheritance must submit a formal request to initiate this process. The request can be submitted online and the court will process it swiftly.

It is crucial to note that when it comes to residential units such as houses, buildings, or land plots within the United Arab Emirates, the court does not have jurisdiction over these assets. Instead, the land department holds jurisdiction over these disputes and it is their responsibility to handle them. This highlights the importance of understanding the legal jurisdiction in inheritance disputes to ensure that proper procedures are followed.

What is the fate of assets located outside the UAE that are involved in inheritance disputes within the UAE?

When it comes to the assets of deceased Dubai residents that are located outside of the UAE and included in their wills, the jurisdiction and legal framework under which they fall are determined by the laws of the country where they exist. The Dubai court’s responsibility in such cases is limited to verifying the rights of the beneficiaries to these assets. The actual distribution of these assets to the beneficiaries must take place through the courts of the country where the assets are located, and it must be in accordance with the laws of that country.

It is important to note that the acceptance and recognition of the Dubai court’s decision regarding these assets is subject to the laws and regulations of the foreign country, as well as any existing judicial treaties that may exist between the UAE and that foreign country. This means that the legal process involved in dividing and distributing these assets can be complex and dependent on the relationship and agreements between the two countries involved.

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