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Legal counsel for businesses
The death of a business partner or a family member can cause severe mental trauma. However, have you ever thought how you could lose your inheritance if there is no proper will in place? Nita Maru answers a few queries relevant to the UAE.
Protection of family legacies in the Middle East is a complicated, often underestimated area of the law and, as we have seen, Shari’ah Law, probably, operates entirely differently from the laws of your home country. It’s therefore important to have the assistance of a fully qualified lawyer to advise on wills and on business succession planning to best ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
Q. We own property in Dubai in joint names. Will I automatically inherit that property upon my husband’s death?
The general rule is that inheritance issues for Muslims will be dealt with in accordance with Shari’ah, and for foreigners, the law of the deceased’s home country will apply. There is, however, some uncertainty with the law surrounding inheritance issues for UAE real estate owned by foreigners and for this reason it is advisable to make a will to clarify a deceased’s wishes regarding the disposed of his estate. This is reinforced by the fact that although you have property in joint names, in the UAE there is no ‘right of survivorship’ concept found in other jurisdictions (i.e. where property passes to the surviving joint owner upon the death of a joint owner). There are, however, alternative offshore structures we can advise on to protect property here.
Q. If my husband dies will our joint bank accounts get frozen?
In principle, the government will freeze accounts until all liabilities of your husband are cleared such as loans, credit cards and business debts; this can happen within one hour of a fatality! The procedure for reactivating the accounts is complex; however, the process can be expedited if there is a will in place.
Q. My husband sponsors me and our children. What effect will his death have on our visas?
The harsh reality is that your visa will be cancelled within 30 days and you will have to leave the country as you no longer have a sponsor. However, there are contingency plans you can put in place for those wishing to stay in the UAE which I can advise on.
Q. Mr. Daswani and Mr. Kumar are business partners and equal shareholders in an LLC company in Dubai, in the fashion/clothing trade. Their business is growing rapidly and they are extremely successful. Mr. Kumar is concerned with the implications in the event of death of either one of them.
In the event of a shareholder’s death, local probate laws are applied to a business, but the results may be unpredictable as shares do not pass automatically by survivorship, nor can another family member take over in lieu. However, we can secure arrangements to avoid lengthy local probate and guarantee business continuity.
Nita Maru is a British qualified solicitor and founder of The Wills Specialists (www.willsuae.com). With over 14 years of experience in senior legal positions, Nita has authored several articles and essays on asset and wealth protection. Her focus is on safeguarding families, heirs and businesses, under succession and inheritance laws in Shari’ah jurisdictions. The Wills Specialists is a law firm based in Dubai, dedicated to the business of wills, asset protection, business succession planning, offshore structures and trusts. The first is accredited by the Government of Dubai Legal Affairs Department and by the Dubai Ruler’s Court. The office location is Office Suite 1305, Saba 1 Tower, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Dubai.