Question: We are Europeans living in Dubai. Our father who was working in the emirate for the past 15 years has died. He has a number of properties and bank accounts. How is succession done in the UAE and who can be the beneficiaries of his properties and funds?
Answer: Family Law lays down the relations that qualify as heirs following the death of an individual. The deceased’s estate can only be transferred to persons who qualify as heirs under Sharia Law principles. Anyone who does not qualify as an heir gets nothing from the estate.
The first step followed by court is to determine the heirs and have them confirmed by witnesses and / or documents. Two male witnesses are required to give statements to confirm the heirs and their relationship to the deceased. Documents such as marriage certificates, birth certificates etc. are also considered but these must be attested and legalised for use in the UAE.
Under Sharia law, the following relations are considered as heirs: parents, spouses, children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters, grandparents (paternal), uncles and aunts (paternal), and nephews and nieces.
You should proceed to the family court and the succession department with the original death certificate, the deceased’s passport copy, and the passport copy of the witnesses.
Question: I had a son with a man who later refused to marry me. He later got married and settled in Dubai with his wife and two children. I have heard that he has passed away. Can my son or I claim a share in his property?
Answer: Under Sharia principles, there are certain restrictions on who can be declared as heirs and certain Islamic principles apply. For example, under Sharia only legitimate relations can be heirs. So any illegitimate children cannot become heirs and are not eligible for a share in the estate.
Similarly, any partnership other than a marriage between a man and a woman cannot be recognised as legitimate. Also, adopted children do not have a share under Sharia.
Sharia Law also clearly states that a non-Muslim cannot be an heir to a Muslim’s fortune. Nor can a Muslim benefit as an heir from a non-Muslim relative. If a person has come to inherit from an estate after committing a crime such as killing a brother or parent, he/she shall not benefit from his/her crime and following the rules of Sharia shall be ineligible for inheritance. Divorced women cannot claim from their ex-husbands unless they are within the “iddat” period and vice versa. Under the UAE laws, you or your son cannot claim a share from the deceased’s property.