Many residents are demanding that laws regulating inheritance rights of foreigners be amended to address their concerns.
They say when a person dies in the UAE, all bank accounts, no matter if they are individual or joint, are frozen and visas are cancelled, leaving family of the deceased in a bad financial situation.
Rani A.K., an India
n housewife with three schoolchildren, said her husband died in a road accident and the authorities in the UAE froze his bank accounts.
`It was too late when I came to know that banks in the UAE have no concept of `either or survivor`, so all bank accounts were frozen despite the fact that they were joint. Unable to withdraw any money
from the bank or the ATM machines to even purchase basic necessities like food, I had to borrow from neighbours to feed my children.`
Rani continued: `My problems were made worse. First I had the loss of the husband to mourn for then I was in a financial situation and in between I had to go from post to pillar to complete formalities. Second, as my husband`s visa was cancelled I was forced to leave the UAE with the children and I had only 30 days to prepare for departing my second home country. This means that the children were forced to miss their school and sent back home.`
She said she had to raise cash to repatriate the body of her husband and buy tickets for herself and children. `Only with the helping hand of philanthropists and charity organisations, had I overcome that stressful situation,` said Rani, who currently lives in Canada
Alice Mathew, an Indian whose husband died due to cancer in March this year, said she had to abandon her husband`s car before returning to her home country after her plans to sell it was thwarted due to lengthy procedures.
About four months after her husbands` death she was able to sell the car through a relative in Dubai. `For two months, I went back and forth to the traffic department trying to put together all the documents that were necessary but it did not happen`, said Mathew, who lives in India with her two sons.
Each time she was asked for a different document or attestation, she said.
Her husband, who was working as a finance manager at a jewellery store, was diagnosed of cancer last year. He died in a hospital back home where he was undergoing treatment.
`I lost hope and returned to India complicating the situation further.` She not only had to prove that she was the legal heir but also had to authorise her relative to sell the car on her behalf.
The process was completed after going through the court, she said.
`It would be very helpful if authorities make available a list of documents necessary in such cases, so that people are aware of what exactly to do,` she said.
Mohammad Marria, a senior estate planner said the UAE has become multi-cultural environment like London and New York however in these two major cities the inheritance laws are black and white and the system is more in favour of the deceased
`In the UAE the Inheritance Laws are not black and white and because of this people are very reluctant to invest here. Even if there is a Will most of the judges in courts will still insist on Shariah Law being applied to the distribution of the estate. This means that lawyers
will have to be employed to have the Wills executed here so you can see that the costs will be going up as the lawyers do charge a lot of money for their services here.`
Marria added his understanding is that there are many judges in the local courts and each one of them has a different school of thought regarding the inheritance laws and this may not coincide with the wishes of the deceased`s family.
Marria suggested what is needed is a solution to these problems. `If you look at banks in India they have the perfect example of `either or survivor` bank accounts, which means that if the husband dies the wife is able to access the accounts immediately. `What we need is clear instructions to the courts/judges on how they should deal with the inheritances and set some sort of benchmark, on procedures, costs, times and more important what documents/information is required.`
Panel to study needed changes
Dr Hadef Bin Jua`an Al Daheri, Minister of Justice, told the Federal National Council (FNC) in January a panel had been set up to study remarks gathered from judges on the law.
`The panel is of the view that certain provisions of the law need to be changed,` Dr Al Daheri said in a statement, which did not specify which provisions were going to be changed.
The Ministry of Justice, Dr Al Daheri said, will study the changes suggested by the panel and present them to higher authorities for approval.
He was responding to a question submitted by Ahmad Shabib Al Daheri, first deputy speaker of the council. The lawmaker from Abu Dhabi said that four years of enforcement of the law showed certain provisions should be changed and more social issues had to be included.