When a person dies intestate, it becomes very difficult for those left behind to gain access of his estate since they cannot be dealt with or transferred without court orders. This results in immense financial problems and unreasonable delays. Therefore, it is advised that a person should execute a will in his lifetime so that his family is freed from the distress it would otherwise experience.

However, laws in the UAE provide for the division of assets in case a person dies without executing a will. The inheritance laws of the country are separate for Muslims and non-Muslims, since Muslims are governed by the Sharia whereas non-Muslims have their own personal law, or can choose to apply the law of their home country if they are expats. In addition to the application of their respective personal laws, some provisions of the Civil Transactions Law of 1985 will also be applicable.

Inheritance: Inheritance is defined, under Article 313 of the UAE Personal Status Law of 2005, as devolution of property and rights after the death of their owner. It is basically a transfer of assets of a deceased person to those legally entitled.

INHERITANCE FOR NON-MUSLIMS

Articles 11 and 12 of Federal Decree-Law No. 41 of 2022, on Civil Personal Status, govern inheritance for non-Muslims.

Article 11(2): If a non-Muslim dies intestate, then his assets will be divided according to the following rules:

  1. Half of the inheritance will go to the spouse, and the other half will be divided between children equally.
  2. In case of no children: Half of the inheritance will go to the spouse, and the other half will be divided equally between parents of the deceased,
  3. In case of only one parent: Half of the inheritance will go to the spouse, and the other half will be divided into two parts, of which:
  • One part will go to the parent who is alive
  • Other part will be divided between the brothers of the deceased equally.

4, In case of only one parent: All of the inheritance will go to the parent who is alive, if the other parent is dead, and there is no spouse, no children, and no brothers of the deceased.

5, In case of no parents: All of the inheritance will be divided between the brothers of the deceased equally.

A person can bequeath all the assets located within the UAE to a person designated by him, as per Article 11(1). Also, under Article 11(3) of the Civil Personal Status and Article 17(1) of the Civil Transactions Law, an heir of a foreign person can request the application of the law of their home country for devolution of assets, unless the same is contradicted by a registered will. The Civil Transactions Law also states that if a foreign person has no heir, his assets in the country will be held by the government.

The procedure for inheritance is to be determined by a Cabinet decision, as mentioned under Article 12 of the law.

INHERITANCE FOR MUSLIMS

Sharia provisions for inheritance are vast and detail-oriented, running in more than 40 articles. However, before summarizing the rules, there are certain points that need to be kept in mind while determining the assets of a deceased Muslim:

  • Inheritance will be determined once the costs of the funeral of the deceased and his outstanding debts, if any, are already paid.
  • In case there is a will executed by the deceased, assets will primarily be determined according to the will and if property is still left, then it will be divided as per the Sharia.
  • A testator cannot bequeath more than one-third of his assets in the will, and there are certain restrictions as to whom he can bequeath.
  • If there is no will, assets are to be determined only according to the Sharia.
  • Heirs are to be ascertained by two male witnesses and proof of documentation.
  • A non-Muslim cannot inherit from a Muslim.
  • Where a person kills another with the intention of deriving benefit from the assets, such person will not be entitled to a share.

Forced inheritance: Certain heirs have a fixed share in the assets as per Article 321 of the law, meaning that they are never excluded unless they do not exist altogether. They get their shares first, even if that does not leave any remainder for the rest of the classes of heirs. Their shares are fixed as halves, one-fourth, one-eighth, two-thirds, one-third, one-sixth, and one-third of the remainder, and are distributed as per Articles 322 to 328, under definite conditions:

  1. Half of the inheritance will go to:

a. The husband, if the wife has no descendant

b. The daughter, if she is the only child of the deceased

c. The daughter of the son or of his descendants, if there is no child/grandchild higher in degree of the deceased

d. The germane sister if she has no brother or sister, and there are no descendants, father or paternal grandfather of the deceased

e. The consanguine sister if she has no brother or sister, and there are no descendants, father or paternal grandfather of the deceased.

2. One-fourth of the inheritance will go to:

a. The husband, if the wife has a descendant

b. The wife, even if more than one, if the husband does not have a descendant.

3. One-eighth of the inheritance will go to:

a. The wife, even if more than one, if the husband has a descendant.

4. Two-thirds of the inheritance will go to:

a. Two or more daughters, if there is no son of the deceased

b. Two or more daughters of the son or of his descendants, if there is no son, grandson of a same degree or grandchild of a higher degree of the deceased

c. Two or more germane sisters if there is no germane or consanguine brother, descendant, father or paternal grandfather of the deceased

d. Two or more consanguine sisters if there is no germane or consanguine brother, germane sister, descendant, father or paternal grandfather of the deceased.

5. One-third of the inheritance will go to:

.a. The mother, if there is no descendant, brother or sister of the deceased

b. Two or more of the mother’s children, with equal division, if there is no descendant, father or paternal grandfather of the deceased

c. The paternal grandfather, if he concurs with more than two consanguine brothers or sisters, and if there are no forced heirs of the deceased.

6. One-sixth of the inheritance will go to:

a.The father, if he concurs with a descendant

b. The paternal grandfather, as per Article 327(2) of the law

c. The mother, with the descendant or two or more brothers and sisters

d. One or more grandmothers, if she is not debarred from inheritance

e. One or more daughters of the son or of his descendants, with a single consanguine daughter or a single son’s daughter in a higher degree, if there is no son or grandson in equal or higher degree of the deceased

f. One or more consanguine sisters, with a germane sister, if there is no descendant, father, paternal grandfather, brother or consanguine brother of the deceased

g. The single uterine brother or sister, if there is no father or paternal grandfather of the deceased, as well as according to Article 347 of the law.

7 One-third of the remainder will go to:

a. The mother, with the spouse and the father, if there is no descendant or two or more brothers or sisters of the deceased

b. The paternal grandfather, if he is with a forced heir and more than two brothers or more than two germane or consanguine sisters, provided that the one-third share is better than the one-sixth for him.

If the assets are not exhausted after the forced heirs get their share, they will be divided among the residuary. If there are no residuary heirs, the remaining assets will be divided evenly among the forced heirs. In the absence of forced or residuary heirs, the assets will be divided among the extended family members. If the deceased does not have any beneficiaries at all, the assets will pass on to the government.

Conclusion: It may seem that the inheritance law under the Sharia is very complex, but it allows the inclusion of all the legitimate beneficiaries to claim from the assets of the deceased. A non-Muslim may execute a will so that administration of the property can become easier for the courts.