When R.P. (name withheld) lost her husband to a heart attack, her life changed overnight. With three kids aged six, eight and 12 to raise, RP was single-handedly running from post to pillar, trying to reopen the joint bank account that was frozen after her husband’s death, procuring a succession certificate and a mountain of other procedural work.
Adding to the immense grief that comes from losing a loved one, the laws and procedures relating to drafting a will or procuring a succession certificate can be overwhelming for families like R.P. and her kids. The process becomes extremely stressful, if the families do not have a will in place.
However, expert lawyers said the process is actually simple and can only seem daunting if they have to go back to their home country.
Sunil Thacker, senior partner at STA Law Firm, said: “The procedure can be overwhelming, especially for people who need to leave and go back to their home country. In some cases, not everyone can afford lawyer’s fees, etc.”
He added: “There are cases where there is a property dispute and if families want their share, then it’s a little more complicated.”
In case there is no will, family members must apply for a succession certificate in their home country, which may take a week to a month, depending on the jurisdiction, Thacker explained.
“After that, the documents must be legalised, attested and notarised. The documents must be in Arabic and it must be legalised before the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Justice,” explained Zisha Rizvi, a partner at STA Law Firm. Then, the family should file a petition before the Dubai Court. The next phases take place in the court, where assets are ascertained.
The assets of the deceased, including movables and immovables, must be disclosed to the court with sufficient documentary evidence. The final step is a court order and execution based on submissions.
Thacker also said the laws vary for Muslims and non-Muslims. “There are Shariah law implications for Muslims,” he explained.
For example, if the deceased husband has one wife, one son and one daughter, the assets will be divided in a way where the wife gets one-eighth share; the daughter is entitled to half of son’s entitlement; and the son gets two-thirds of the balance.
Khaleej Times spoke to RK, whose husband suddenly passed away a few years ago.
Since a will was not drawn, matters got complicated for the family. She said: “Everything was in my husband’s name and we had a joint account. All the assets were frozen. Because I have a daughter, I had to get clearance from my in-laws and my husband’s siblings.”
“The succession certificate was needed so that I could gain access to money in the banks again,” she added.
However, the real task has been in trying to sell the family car.
“I can transfer the car into my name. However, I will not be able to sell it unless my daughter, who is 21 now, gives me a power of attorney. Once the family members and my daughter provide me with the documents, I can transfer ownership of the car,” she said.
What to do if there is no will
1-The successors of deceased must apply for a succession certificate in his home country which may take a week to months
2-The document must be legalised, attested and notarised
3-Documents must be in Arabic
4-Legalise it before the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice
5-File a petition before a Dubai court
6- Declare the assets of the deceased (movables and immovable) to the court with sufficient documentary evidence
7-Court will decide based on submissions and render a judgement