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Planning for the Unplanned: Dubai’s Law for Intestate Estates

Life can be unpredictable, and while we don’t like to dwell on it, planning for our eventual passing is crucial. This is especially true for those in Dubai, where the legal landscape surrounding inheritance can be complex, particularly in cases of intestacy. Legal complexities can affect individuals’ estate upon their demise, mainly if they have not undertaken formal estate planning. The laws of intestate succession distribute an estate when someone passes away without leaving a valid will or testament.

This scenario underscores the importance of proactive estate planning to ensure one’s wishes distribute assets. In this blog post, we delve into the law of intestate estates and explore how property inheritance lawyers in Dubai can assist individuals in navigating this intricate legal landscape.

What is Intestacy?

Intestacy occurs when someone dies without a valid will. It triggers laws in Dubai that determine the distribution of the deceased’s estate, which includes assets and liabilities.

Dubai’s Law for Intestate Estates

In Dubai, intestate succession is primarily based on Sharia principles, as Islamic law significantly influences legal matters, including inheritance. Sharia law automatically grants certain relatives the right to inherit a portion of the deceased’s estate. Predetermined shares allocated to specific relatives determine the distribution of assets among heirs.

For instance, Sharia inheritance rules typically distribute an individual’s estate among surviving family members, such as spouses, children, parents, and siblings, if they pass away without leaving a will. The specific shares allotted to each heir depend on various factors, including their relationship to the deceased and the presence of other eligible heirs.

However, it’s essential to note that non-Muslim expatriates residing in Dubai have the option to opt out of Sharia law and instead apply the law of their home country to govern the distribution of their estates. Executing a valid will or testament allows individuals to specify their preferred beneficiaries and asset distribution plan.

Here’s a simplified overview:

For Muslims: Inheritance According to Sharia Law

Sharia law outlines a specific distribution plan for a Muslim resident’s estate in the absence of a will. The beneficiary’s relationship to the deceased and their gender (in some cases) determine the allocation of shares. Here’s a general breakdown:

  • Spouses: The spouse’s share depends on whether the deceased had children. Typically, a surviving husband receives ½ of the estate, while a wife receives ¼ if there are children.
  • Children: Sharia law traditionally divides the remaining portion among the children, with sons receiving twice the share of daughters. It reflects the historical expectation that sons would financially support the family.
  • Parents: If the deceased has no children, their parents inherit a specific estate share.
  • Other Relatives: Depending on the family structure, grandparents, siblings, and other relatives may also be entitled to inherit a fixed portion of the remaining estate.

Essential Considerations for Sharia-Based Inheritance:

  • Predetermined Shares: The fixed allocations might not align with your wishes. You may have wanted to leave a more significant portion to a specific child pursuing education or a daughter starting a business.
  • Debts and Liabilities: Sharia law dictates that any debts of the deceased are deducted from the estate before inheritance is distributed.

For Non-Muslims: More Flexibility with Wills

Expats in Dubai have more control over their estate’s distribution compared to Muslims. Here’s what they can do:

  • Home Nation’s Inheritance Law: Dubai Law No. 15 of 2017 allows non-Muslims to have their estate divided according to their home country’s inheritance laws. It provides flexibility, primarily if your assets or beneficiaries are spread across different countries.
  • Registered Wills: You can draft a will following your home nation’s legal procedures and then register it with the Dubai Courts. It guarantees the upholding of your wishes and the document’s recognition by local authorities.
  • DIFC Wills and Probate Registry: If you live, work, or have assets within the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), consider creating a DIFC will for even greater control. This registry offers a separate legal framework for international businesses and residents.

Benefits of Wills for Non-Muslims:

  • Control Distribution: A will lets you specify precisely how you want your estate divided, ensuring your assets go to your intended beneficiaries.
  • Minimize Disputes: Clear instructions in a will can help prevent confusion and disagreements among your heirs.
  • Reduce Costs and Delays: Probate proceedings for an adequately registered will are generally faster and less expensive than intestacy proceedings.

It is a simplified overview, and inheritance law can involve complexities. Consulting an inheritance lawyer in the UAE legal system is highly recommended, especially when dealing with significant assets or intricate family situations. They can guide you through the legalities specific to your residency status and ensure the translation of your wishes into a legally sound plan.

The Pitfalls of Intestacy

While Dubai’s legal framework offers some guidance, intestacy can lead to several complications:

  • Unintended Distribution: The court-mandated distribution might not align with your wishes. Assets you intended for a specific beneficiary, like a grandchild pursuing higher education, may end up elsewhere.
  • Delays and Expenses: Distributing an estate through the court system can be lengthy and costly. It can cause unnecessary stress for your loved ones during a difficult time, especially when they grapple with grief. Probate fees and administrative costs can also significantly diminish the estate’s value.
  • Family Disputes: Ambiguity surrounding your wishes can lead to disagreements and conflicts among beneficiaries. It can strain family relationships and even lead to costly legal battles.

How a Property Inheritance Lawyer Can Be Your Ally

A property inheritance lawyer in the UAE’s legal system can be invaluable in navigating intestacy and its challenges. Here’s how they can assist:

  • Understanding Your Options: They can explain the intricacies of the legal landscape for intestate estates in Dubai, considering your residency status and potential implications. It empowers you to make informed decisions, even without a will.
  • Estate Planning, Even After the Fact: Even if you haven’t created a will, a lawyer can help you explore alternative solutions. Depending on the circumstances, they might advise on inheritance claims based on dependency or financial contributions made to the deceased during their lifetime.
  • Dispute Resolution: If disagreements arise among beneficiaries, they can help mediate or represent you in court to ensure a fair and efficient resolution. Their expertise in inheritance law and experience with the local legal system can significantly improve the outcome for all parties involved.
  • Futureproofing Your Legacy: A lawyer can advise you on creating a will or other estate planning tools to avoid intestacy and fulfill your wishes. It can include drafting a Sharia-compliant will for Muslim residents or a DIFC will for non-Muslims seeking more control over their estate’s distribution.

Hire the Best Inheritance Lawyer in Dubai!

By taking proactive steps and seeking legal guidance, you can gain peace of mind knowing your estate will be handled smoothly and according to your desires, even in the case of intestacy. Consulting Diana Hamade, a property inheritance lawyer in Dubai, is a wise step towards protecting your legacy and safeguarding your family’s future. She will confidently navigate the legalities and ensure a smooth transition of your assets, minimizing stress and potential conflict for your loved ones during a difficult time.

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