When living in the UAE, preparing a last will and testament, understanding succession law, and what happens to your money and property when you die is very important. Many people are not aware that the local courts have the ability to apply Sharia where the deceased hasn’t left explicit legal instructions on how to distribute their belongings. This effectively allows someone else to assess your assets and distribute them according to the principles of Sharia law.
Federal Law No. 5 of 1985 – Civil Transactions Code and with reference to Federal Law No. 28 of 2005 are the governing law in UAE that lays down the framework of wills and succession. By virtue of the UAE civil code, it is recognized that inheritance will be governed by the law of the testator at the time of his death. To wit, succession for Muslim is governed by the Shariah, whereas, the non-Muslim is allowed to choose the law of their home country for the adjudication of their wills and estate.
It is important to note that UAE law does not allow the right of survivorship and the UAE courts have exclusive jurisdiction to decide upon such cases. Therefore, if an expatriate dies without a will, the Court will decide on the distribution of assets. Assets of the deceased cannot be transferred in any manner without direction from the court. Even the surviving spouse will not be able to access money deposited in UAE bank in the absence of a registered will, this account will remain frozen under directed by the bank. At the onset, the assets of the deceased will be distributed by the Courts in accordance with Sharia Law.
On the other hand, if the deceased left a will, the heirs and descendants have the right to claim the assets according to Shariah Law for Muslims and for non-Muslims, beneficiaries of the will can claim provided the will is legally certified and complies with the formalities of the documents required under the law.