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UAE Introduces Changes to Expat Wills

When we think about moving abroad, the most common factors considered are job opportunities, the costs of living, and the climate. Very few of us make the legal system a priority in our decision making process. Yet according to reports from the United Arab Emirates, some exciting changes are happening surrounding the wills of expats living in the country. Furthermore, while these changes may seem small to some, they’re a further example of how ”expat-friendly” the nation has become, and how much value it places on its imported workforce.

Firstly, it’s fair to say that the UAE is a very popular destination with expats. So much so that right now expats outnumber locals by an amazing 9:1. According to recent statistics the expat population in the UAE includes almost a quarter of a million Brits; the largest Western population in the Middle East. Among other nationalities you’ll also find 300,000 Egyptians and 250,000 Jordanians. Expats are big business in the UAE.

There are plenty of reasons for this vast non-native population. For one, such a wealthy nation can afford to ship in qualified help from abroad in order to make their lives easier. The strong economy also creates all manner of high-level positions in commerce, retail, tourism and more. The tax-free status enjoyed by natives and expats alike also makes the salaries look very attractive indeed.

On the other hand in the recent past, non-Muslim expats living in the Middle East suffered from an odd problem; the Muslim Sharia law by which many governing decisions are made, also made it difficult for expats to make a legally-binding will. Previously, while it was possible for expats to make out a will while resident in the country, there were significant limitations. Most notably, current expat wills cover only so-called ”moveable assets” such as cash, gold and bonds. However the very same legal system didn’t cover immovable assets, meaning that property and suchlike was not covered.

Bearing in mind that many people’s most valuable asset is their home, this has unsurprisingly been something of an issue in the past. Now though all this is set to change, as new laws are introduced enabling expat wills to cover all their assets. While the wills are scheduled to cost several thousand dollars to make out – much more than most other countries charge – expats will at least be able to account for their estate on their death.

The new policy comes into action in May 2015 and initially expat wills be able available from the Dubai International Financial Centre. Experts in Emirati law predict that the costs of making a will while in the UAE will fall over time, something that will be welcomed by the sizeable expat population here. At last expats will be able to guarantee that their property assets are passed correctly down to their chosen heir without problems or interruption, which can only be another benefit of moving to the UAE.

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