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The UAE's New Laws Relating to Inheritance and Deceased Estates

On Saturday 7 November, the UAE furthered its efforts to attract foreign direct investment into the country. Of note, the decrees issued by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, includes changes to the law of inheritances and deceased estates.

These changes now enable expatriates living in the UAE, and foreigners with real estate investments in the UAE, to specify in their Will, the law which they wish to apply to the distribution of their UAE assets. Furthermore, where there is no Will in place, or the preference of applicable law is not mentioned in the Will, the laws of the deceased’s nationality will apply.

Prior to these changes, it was possible for UAE Courts to apply principles of Shariah law to the estate of a non-Muslim. Therefore mandatory rules of division between certain members of the deceased’s family would apply, despite such division potentially being in conflict with the wishes of the deceased. This change of law reduces the issues of a conflict in laws between the UAE and the law of the deceased’s home nation, as well as ensuring the deceased estate is administered according to his or her wishes and/or the customs of their home nation.

This amendment will provide foreign investors, and expatriates who call the UAE ‘home’, with an additional level of comfort, knowing that in the unfortunate event of their passing, the UAE courts will apply the law selected by them (or the law of their home nation), when dealing with their estate. It is expected that such changes will help build on the solid foundation already laid in the UAE, having created a safe and attractive environment for foreign investment.

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