Create a will

Do you have a will in place?

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably avoiding this topic. Yet, it’s of such vital importance to draft. But I don’t have anything that’s worth much, you may think. A will is not only about any money, houses or jewellery. A will also protects your family, especially if you have minor children. Join me and create yours (I’ve mine in place)!

Parts of today’s post are specific to Dubai and the UAE. For those of you following us from outside this region, please check with your local lawyer as your process may be different.

When you pass away in the UAE

Should you pass away in the UAE, your bank accounts will be frozen. Any payments from a life insurance would be added to your assets. If you are married and don’t have your own bank account, how will you obtain your funds? They will only be released when cleared by a judge and this may take time.

If you sponsor your spouse, your children and/or other family members, their visas get cancelled. They may need to obtain their own visa (e.g. through their employer) or leave the country within the grace period. As if the death of a loved one isn’t painful enough, an international move, potentially without having access to all funds, increases the enormous feeling of distress.

If no will is in place, any minors in your family may be given to a custodian who you and your spouse didn’t want. Many aren’t aware that such rulings may also apply to them. Determine who should look after your children and put it into your will.

Write a will in the UAE

In the UAE, the process to create a will is pretty straight forward. Your lawyer or a wills specialist can draft the will for you. Due to local legislation, it’s rather plain and may only be 2 pages long. Sections include:

  • Your personal details (e.g. address and passport number)
  • Details about the executors of your will
  • The governing laws (probably those of your home country and don’t want Sharia law to be applied)
  • The place for repatriation of your body
  • The distribution of your assets
  • The guardian(s) for your children

If you are couple, you can’t file a joint will. Each one of you will write their own will, however, you can reference to your partner’s will.

Translate it into Arabic

The English version of your will needs to be translated into Arabic by a court-approved translator and you’ll get a bilingual version. It’s best to check the Arabic version. In my case, some names were wrong and that was easy to spot. Ask a friend to check the rest of the translation if you don’t speak Arabic fluently.

Notarise it

Once you’ve obtained and signed your bilingual will, take it to the public notary. The officials there will acknowledge it and upload it into the central records. Should something happen to you, your will is readily available and your family and friends won’t have to look for it during these difficult times.

The earlier you go in the morning, the shorter your queue should be. If you are a couple, only one of you was required to notarise both wills. Make use of the lady queue and leave your husband

Here’s a tip: Dress conservative! Ladies, wear long sleeves and trousers. If you wear a skirt or dress, make it a long one and don’t show cleavage. Gentlemen, wear long trousers, no shorts. If your outfit is deemed inappropriate, you will be sent home.

Another option is the DIFC Wills & Probate Registry, if you want to have only your Dubai/Ras Al Khaimah assets covered. The will can be in English only and the DIFC Wills & Probate Registry is the first one in this region to follow internationally recognised Common Law principles. The following criteria must also be met:

  • You are not a Muslim, and have never been a Muslim
  • You are over 21 years of age
  • You own assets in Dubai and/or Ras Al Khaimah
  •  Any children for which you wish to appoint guardians for must be habitually resident in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah.

Your final resting place

This may be a difficult question for you. If you’ve been moving from place to place or local laws are restricting your final resting place, where do you want to be laid to rest? Will you communicate this to your friends and family in advance or surprise them in your will?

My family and some of my friends, and now you, too, know that I want to be cremated with 2 coins on my eyes. Call it superstitious but this is not the moment to risk anything lasting an eternity. My ashes are to be put into a bio-degradable urn. If it’s worm food (despite the 2 coins), let them munch.

Your executor

You may feel very uncomfortable speaking about death. That’s okay and natural!

Some people don’t care what happens once they’re gone and they let their executor figure out what to do with their belongings. I’ve seen some individuals who decluttered like crazy because they couldn’t stand the thought of being a burden to the executor of their will. Decide what you want.

I’ve shared my wishes with my beneficiaries and my executor. Whether they’ll follow it at the time is up to them.

The right guardian for your children

The thought of leaving behind young children can be dreadful. Still, it’s so important for expats to consider who will look after them when you’re no longer there. A first choice is the other parent for many. What if they’re not able or are involved in the same accident that caused you to lose your life?

Which friends or family members do you trust with your children? For some, this can be a long and agonising discussion. Do the chosen ones have similar values, views and beliefs to yours? What are their parenting skills? Think of Catherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel in Life as We know it.

Are their any physical or mental limitations, most likely when considering aging grandparents? Are they in the same country or how could the children move to their new home? Will you leave a trust fund behind?

The costs

The legal fees for writing are expected to be around AED 3,000-5,000. Translation fees can be around AED 400 per page.

Registration with Dubai Courts costs AED 2,165 while at the DIFC is AED 10,000 (single will) and AED 15,000 (mirror will for a couple).

A little disclaimer

Just as a reminder that processes in this region do change. The information compiled for you was up-to-date on the day of writing and is not meant a legal advice.

Don’t forget to update your will when you experience life changes (birth of a child, divorce, etc).

Until next time,

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