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Legally Stylish contributor Diana Hamade’ Al Ghurair cites the law’s progress in engaging women in the business of succession planning

Legally Stylish contributor Diana Hamade’ Al Ghurair cites the law’s progress in engaging women in the business of succession planning

THE ENGLISH SAY: “HE WILL, She Won’t”, reflecting the fact that women do not engage in legacy and succession like men do. This may be true as far as women are concerned almost worldwide, but is also applicable to Muslim men, and citizens of countries where forced heirship laws apply and the use of a Will or a Gift or a Trust or even a Foundation is not acceptable. The idea of succession planning using such tools where the testator has the freedom to distribute wealth to loved ones and ensure that business and personal affairs are in order when the time comes, is still going through a scrutinised process but many steps have been taken on the legislative front to change the status quo.

Women in the UAE and the GCC are rising to the top of professions in both the private and public sectors. Data in the region shows their contribution to their economies in an unprecedented way. They are building businesses and leading industries. Yet against this backdrop of what is clearly a changing social dynamic, their personal lives have not experienced much change.

The engagement of women in financial legacy — whether as inheritors or testators, has caused women to look for tools to use under the relevant laws, both personally, or as part of family businesses, to acquire their equitable share of inheritance and have a say in legacy and continuity, but the approach is still very much based on gender as far as the complex subject of inheritance is concerned. Inheritance planning has been one of the areas where women have been involved least. They are likely to leave succession planning to male family members, because they do not think it is important for them to leave behind a financial legacy, and also because Sharia has set the rules and they do not want to look like they have not been observant.

It is true that Sharia has set the shares of inheritance in a predetermined manner, but it should be noted that endowment funding which was religiously encouraged as a way to sustain business and preserve wealth from loss by the inheritors, is making a return through the structures of bequeath made available by the legislator saving both men and women from this shortfall, and allowing them to set a new trend.

Inheritance planning is perhaps the one area where women should have the greatest involvement and input – given its fundamental importance to family dynamics and the future welfare of the children.

The new inheritance laws are granting family business owners and heirs tools and means to manage their affairs as shareholders. The law is also leaving it up to the testator and the heirs to decide on who should take over a business.

The involvement of women in inheritance planning as heiresses or as testators has been developing slowly, yet the term legacy planning, which is concerned with the broader meaning of a woman’s life and the impact she has during her lifetime or thereafter, has been a focus for many women lately. The topic may be a difficult one to discuss with anyone, but lawyers and financial advisors are able to make the attributes of legacy planning worth the time and effort exerted into the exercise.


A lawyer with experience in estate planning and inheritance laws can advise you how to structure your legacy plan in a Sharia, and legallycompliant manner, while accomplishing your legacy planning objectives. Your financial planner can advise you on a variety of legacy planning tools such as retirement accounts, funds and investments.


The following are examples of estate planning methods which are now available in DIFC, ADGM & under the laws of both jurisdictions:

  • A will with bequests to family members (non-inheritors), institutions or charitable organizations;
  • A living trust or another type of trust;
  • Life insurance or changing beneficiaries on existing policies;
  • Establishing a foundation;
  • Funding an endowment;
  • Charitable giving and donations;
  • Gifting to children, grandchildren or other heirs;
  • Forming a family limited partnership.


  1. Pass on your values to future generations and protect family assets;
  2. Define how you want to be remembered and the contributions you want to make to your family, your community or the world;
  3. Protect income, assets or family heirlooms for your beneficiaries;
  4. Enjoy the satisfaction of knowing your property will be used to support a cause which is important to you;
  5. Gain peace of mind and a renewed purpose in life.

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