Welcome Change to Property Laws for Expats in Dubai
Expats can now safely purchase property in Dubai
Foreigners who live in Dubai and own property in the emirate will now have more control over how their estate is distributed after their death, thanks to altered local inheritance laws.
New rules set in place by the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) mean that non-Muslims can be exempt from Sharia laws on succession. The big change is due to the fact that non-Muslims can now register English Language wills under Common Law.
Until now, while United Arab Emirate law allowed expats to have wills according to the provisions of their native country, this did not include their wishes relating to property.
Being unable to control inheritance of property in Dubai has deterred expats from investing. This is set to change.
Inheritance laws around property in Dubai are not as straightforward nor the same as those in some Western countries.
The Government of Dubai’s official website states that ‘the UAE Courts will adhere to Sharia law in any situation where there is no will in place’. This means it’s crucial that expats are able to register wills in their own language.
Following a death where there is no will, the UAE Courts can distribute the deceased’s estate according to Sharia law, where assets are divided with fixed share ratios. A surviving wife who has children has a claim to only 1/8th of her late husband’s estate, while a surviving husband who has children qualifies for 1/4th of his wife’s estate. Whilst a surviving wife may be appointed as a custodian of any children of the marriage, she may not automatically be appointed as the legal guardian.
When there is no will, all personal assets of the deceased, including bank accounts, will be frozen until liabilities have been discharged Even shared assets will be frozen until the issue of inheritance is determined by the local courts. There is also no automatic transfer of shares where businesses are concerned.
These laws have been applied at the discretion of the UAE Courts which has until now created uncertainty among Non-Muslim expats in the UAE and results in expatriates retaining funds outside of the region.
The new-found confidence that expats will enjoy when they are able to register their wills in English means that expats are likely to invest more in property, meaning the new rules could be a positive boost to Dubai’s already thriving economy.
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