The beginning of the New Year often marks a child’s first term at a new school. The anxiety faced by parents when their children take those first steps to independence is all too common; however, very few turn their minds to consider the consequences for their children if either or both parents were to fall ill or worse, unexpectedly pass away.
Life as an expat in Dubai can be isolating, most do not have the local support system that an extended family provides. If tragedy were to strike, it is important to ensure that parents have thought about and communicated to those who they trust, their wishes for the immediate and long term future care of their children.
At the time of registering for admission to a new school or nursery, parents are often asked to provide contact details for individuals (other than the parents), who can be contacted in the event of an emergency. Whilst this is a way of ensuring that there are individuals who can be contacted if both parents are unreachable, the bigger picture needs to be considered; what if both parents are involved in an accident? Who would collect the children from school? Who would care for the children in the immediate aftermath? Questions like these may be unbearable to consider, but being prepared for the worst saves much heartache and anxiety. Fortunately, there are options available to parents who wish to plan and control as much as they can, to ensure their children are cared for in the best possible way, by individuals chosen by them.
Parents are advised to appoint guardians. Guardians are individuals who would take responsibility to ensure the safety, security and wellbeing, and to make all important decisions on behalf of the children, in the absence of the parents. Depending on the type of guardian, this role may be for a fixed period of time, or it may continue until the children become adults. Temporary guardians are those who would care for your children in the immediate aftermath of your death; this would involve, for example, collecting your children from school and providing them with a safe place to stay until the permanent guardians can assume care. Temporary guardians should be locally resident. Permanent guardians are usually relatives who would be selected to care for your children in the long-term; they would be involved in all the major decisions, including where the children would reside and which school they would attend.
The only legally accepted method of appointing guardians for non-Muslim minor children is to include these provisions in an appropriately-registered Will. Modes of registering a Will are now available through the DIFC Wills Service Centre (DIFC WSC) and through the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD). Both modes allow non-Muslim parents to name both temporary and permanent guardians for their children, as well as include decisions relating to the distribution of their financial assets on death. If parents wish to only make reference to guardianship, the DIFC WSC offers the option of registering a Guardianship-only Will, which allows both temporary and permanent guardians to be appointed, but which cannot include reference to assets. If the worst were to happen to the parents, the appointed guardians would be formally recognised to act on behalf of the children and if the Will is appropriately drafted, would also allow the guardians to travel with the children if the circumstances required.
Ultimately, it is advisable to seek specific legal advice from a licensed legal consultant to ensure that the document you wish to prepare adequately represents your intentions, and protects your children. Contact Tasleem Sayani (Head of Wills, Estates & Succession Planning) at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
This is an updated article first published in 2017.
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