Your guide to getting a WillSeptember 3, 2019
So you have kids, and maybe some property or savings, and you feel like a grown-up. Is that enough? A little like the dentist, getting a Will is something we MEAN to do, but we’re busy, life gets in the way – and we don’t really want to face up to reality anyway. But folks, this isn’t going to resolve itself, so it’s time to put your Big Girl/Boy Pants on and make some plans for the future, to make sure your kids and assets are safe, because you really don’t know what’s around the corner.
A few months ago my husband and I travelled to the UK for a weekend, a wedding that the kids couldn’t come to, and the night before I was a wreck. Crying. Asking all the questions like “What if something happens to them while we’re away? What if we’re in a plane crash? What if you get murdered?”. You know, all the stuff that makes your head spin and there are no real answers that quieten it down.
So my husband made The Death List (morbid name, I know). A document with all of the essential information on – life insurance, Wills, bank accounts, emergency numbers and more, then told both Loreta, our nanny, about it, and a close friend. It put my mind somewhat at ease.
But the Wills thing is the biggest – knowing that should the worst happen the kids will be looked after. As expats it’s so easy to be confused and confounded by what we need to do, so I sat down with Stuart Porter from Great British Wills (https://www.greatbritishwills.com) to ask the kind of questions my friends and I have discussed over the last few years. He’s a lovely guy, and can advise on all sorts of situations, so drop him a line to find out more about your life and future-proofing it.
- Who needs a Will?
A Will is a legal document enabling a person to state their wishes for the treatment of their assets and children in the event of their death. Therefore, anyone who wants a say in what happens to their children and assets after their death should have a Will.
- Even if you don’t have any assets in the UAE?
Wills can be structured to cover just the assets in one jurisdiction, e.g. Dubai, or for worldwide assets. Most people have some assets somewhere. The most appropriate Will for them will depend on their nationality, the type of asset and location of the asset.
- Are expats covered by Wills that they have in their home countries?
It is important to review your Will on a regular basis. When moving to a new country there are tax and legal implications. Laws applicable to the assets held by the expat may change. Whether an expats home country Will would cover all assets held in UAE would depend on several factors. For example, what those assets are, how they are owned and the nationality of the expat.
- What are the steps for getting a Will?
The first step in preparing a Will is to gain a good understanding of what the options are for you. We help our clients achieve this by giving them a free initial consultation, and these meetings normally happen at the client’s home. During the meeting they are able to ask as many questions as they like. We also need to understand their circumstances and wishes before we can help them and give them an indication of the costs.
Expats can find out the best solution for their needs free of charge. This information can then be used if they want to proceed with the solutions or not. The important thing is they will have the knowledge.
Once all of the information has been gathered and decisions made, the process is different depending on the type of Will or Guardianship document required.
- Who needs to be present in Court, and is it in English?
Some countries require the Wills of their nationals to be made before a notary or registered in some way. The requirements for this vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, DIFC proceedings are held in English whilst local court proceedings are held in Arabic, although a translator can be provided.
- What happens if you don’t have a Will on death?
This will depend on your nationality, where the assets are and what the assets are. But what is certain in all cases is that the deceased will have given up all options of controlling their assets. Family members living overseas may not be aware of their relatives wishes. This can cause needless stress at what is a difficult time for all.
Most countries have set of rules which apply in the event of dying without a Will, known as dying intestate. These rules rarely take account of complex family structures, such as where children exist from previous relationships. These rules are rarely structured to minimise death duties, consequently where a Will does not exist higher taxes may result.
Locally, subject to a few caveats, a Will enables non-Muslim expats to opt out of local law being applied to their assets. Importantly, real estate within UAE cannot be distributed under an expat home country Will.
- What about temporary guardianship?
As expats, making sure our children are safe if they should be orphaned is a high priority. Being away from extended family means appointing a temporary guardian is a sensible solution. These should be people you and your children know and trust. They should be people who are physically able to look after children until the formal legal guardians are arrive from overseas and are appointed by the court. The routes available to expats in Dubai are often topics of discussion during my meetings with clients.
- How does it differ for Muslims and Non-Muslims?
The religion of an expat is important in UAE. Within UAE, Muslims have fewer options available to them than non-Muslims. For example, only non-Muslims can use the DIFC Wills Service.
Outside of UAE, for example in Europe, the religion of a person does not matter to the State but the person may wish to structure their Will according to their faith. So a Muslim in England may want to structure his or her will according to Sharia.
- What is the procedure for modifying a Will?
It is important for a Will to be reviewed on a regular basis. This means at least once every 3 years or so. The Will should also be reviewed and potentially modified when important changes occur within the client’s life such as, moving country, marriage, death of a beneficiary or birth of a child.
Usually I recommend a Will is prepared on a broad basis which enables the client’s wishes to be understood without the need to change the Will when children are born or new assets are purchased.
Sometimes however is not possible to meet a client’s wishes within the existing Will or there is a change in the law or tax which means the will needs to be modified. It is possible to amend a Will using a codicil however the cost of preparing a codicil may cost as much as the original Will depending on the work involved with the amendment.
- What should my family do in the event of my death?
Like many things in life, if some preparation has been done, the situation is easier for all concerned. Making sure you have a Will and or Guardianship document in place is important.
- What should business owners know?
Small Business owners have more responsibilities than employees. For example, not only are their families dependent on them but so too are employees, suppliers, customers and business partners. Part of a business plan should be devoted to what happens in the event of a business owner’s death.
A business represents a significant investment of time and resources for most owners. Understandably, they want their family to benefit from this. However, the death of an owner can have a serious repercussions on the value and on-going viability of a business.
For the family, they usually want financial security. Being responsible for a business they may know nothing about can seriously undermine their financial security and the financial security of others associated with the business. Usually the family want the value of the business owners shares, not the shares themselves.
Remaining business partners may feel some duty to care for their former partner’s family. However they will also want to retain control over the business. Preferably without the interference of their former business partner’s family who may not understand the business.
For business owners, business planning needs to be undertaken which will help relieve some of these problems. We talk to business owners regularly and help them find the best solutions for their needs.
I really hope that helps with any niggles and questions you might have – I was really pleasantly surprised by the fees involved – I’ve always heard about DIFC Wills being around the AED15,000 mark, but there are much, much cheaper alternatives that cover you and your family.
Stuart’s first consultation is totally free, and it does make sense to have it at home so you have all the documentation to hand. From there, you can make a plan to put your mind at ease. He specialised in British Wills, but can also advise on other countries.
Don’t leave it too late.
Stuart can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
+ 971 (0) 50 594 5217