Of the many legal services we offer to private clients, Wills and Estate-planning advice is perhaps the most sought-after by the majority of expatriate residents in Dubai. Many own real estate in Dubai and usually retain substantial assets in their home country as well. This raises concerns about safeguarding these assets to ensure they pass to loved ones when the time comes. Making a Will is a sensible and necessary first step to safeguard your assets and ensure your family and loved ones are taken care of in the event of death. If correctly drafted, a Will can do many important things – appoint guardians for minor children, set up trusts for disabled beneficiaries, appoint executors to administer your estate, specify funeral wishes and leave gifts to charities. Many people do not realise that if you die without a Will, at best, all the important decisions about executors, guardians for minors and funeral wishes are not documented anywhere, and at worst, your loved ones may have to resort to going to Court in order to decide how your affairs should be dealt with – This is both costly and traumatic for all involved. The UAE is an Islamic country and the legal basis for many of the laws governing personal status matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance, are found in Sharia. If you are a UAE-resident Muslim, Sharia law will apply to all aspects of your personal affairs that are subject to legal judgement and this shall include inheritance, marriage, and divorce. For non-muslim residents however, the position relating to inheritance and succession of locally based assets is a grey area and the local Courts deal with matters on a case by case basis. This wide discretion, coupled with uncertainty as to the law itself can have potentially devastating consequences for loved ones, if the wrong advice is obtained. One important way that you can define your wishes is by putting in place a valid Will. The type of Will that would be suitable for your circumstances will depend on many factors and your legal advisor would be best placed to advise you, taking into account your nationality, your family situation, the type of assets that you own and the location of those assets. Assets generally fall into two categories – movable and immovable. Immovable assets include real estate, and movable assets are those such as bank accounts, investments and cars. Most expats living in Dubai retain at least a movable asset in this jurisdiction, in the form of a local bank account in which their salary is paid. For many expats, the concern is not their material assets but their children. Particularly if you have young children, making a Will is vital to ensure they are looked after by those who you choose and not those who the Court chooses. The only legal way that you can appoint individuals to care for your children is by naming them as testamentary guardians in your Will. Guardians will step into your shoes and care for your children until they are adults in the event that you die while they are still minors. At James Berry & Associates, we can advise on legal solutions to ensure that all assets, including real estate owned by Muslim and non- Muslim expatriates, pass to chosen beneficiaries and are not subject to local inheritance laws, if this is not required. Unlike the ever-increasing number of ‘Will-writers’ emerging in the region, we are qualified legal advisors, governed by the relevant professional bodies and first and foremost trained as lawyers. Our approach is therefore not to provide every expatriate with a one-size fits all solution, but to tailor our advice to individual needs and circumstances, while offering reasonable, transparent rates that reflect our expertise. In addition to being regulated by the professional bodies in our home countries, we work under a Professional Legal Consultant’s license which authorises us to carry out legal consultancy work. We are licensed by the Department of Economic Development and the Ruler’s Court of Dubai to provide legal advice. We provide a full review of your personal circumstances once you have completed the Will questionnaire, and based on this review, we suggest the best solution for your situation. Our charges for preparing the Wills are clarified at the outset and we do not charge for witnessing your wills, providing copies or for storage of your original documents.
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