What happens if an expat dies outside the UAE without a will?
Does the money go to a family member or is it confiscated by the bank?
Q: What is the law regarding a bank account if an expatriate in the UAE dies untimely without registering a will in the country? Does the money go to the spouse/family member or is it confiscated by the bank?
Answer: As requested, the provisions of Federal Law No. 28 of 2005 on personal status (“UAE Personal Status Law”) and Law No. 14 of 2021 on personal status for non-Muslim aliens in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi (“Abu Dhabi Personal Status Law”) on the issue related to inheritance in the UAE if a person dies inestate (without a will).
In the UAE, in the event of the death of an individual, the bank account of the deceased will be frozen by the relevant bank in the UAE as soon as it becomes known of his death. Thereafter, a family member, who must be one of the legal heirs of the deceased, must obtain a certificate of succession of the deceased from the Personal Status Court (“the Court”) in the relevant Emirate of the UAE where the deceased resided.
On the basis of an application filed by the legal heir, the Court, on the testimony of two witnesses, may issue a certificate of succession relating to the share of each legal heir in accordance with the provisions of the UAE Personal Status Law, if the deceased did not register a will.
The legal heirs then need to open a probate case in court and submit the certificate of succession together with other documents including details of all movable and immovable assets including bank accounts, investments, documents certifying the identity of the deceased.
In addition, the legal heirs must submit documents proving their identity and the details of the relevant bank accounts. The court, based on the application of the legal heirs, will distribute the property among the legal heirs in accordance with the shares specified in the certificate of succession, after deducting payments on loans, credit card debts, fines, utility bills and other accounts payable, if any.
Based on the foregoing, the legal heirs of the decedent who died without a will will be determined by the court in accordance with the provisions of the Probate Act.
The court in accordance with the provisions of the Personal Status Law of the UAE. Article 321 of the UAE Personal Status Law determines who are the legal heirs of an individual who has died without a will. It reads as follows:
“1. Compulsory inheritance: represents the heir’s fixed share of the inheritance.
- Fixed shares: one-half, one-quarter, one-eighth, two-thirds, one-third, one-sixth, and one-third of the remainder.
- Compulsory heirs are: Both parents, spouses, paternal grandfather or his close relatives, grandmother who is not related to the testator, daughters, daughters of the son or his descendants, sisters and brother-in-law.”
In addition, articles 322 to 328 of the UAE Personal Status Law refer to the degrees of inheritance.