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General inheritance laws in the United Arab Emirates are adapted from Shariah Law, Islamic beliefs that serve as the basis of most legal systems in Muslim countries. Without a legally registered will in place, disbursement of an expatriate’s assets may be made solely according to Shariah law.

Inheritance Law

In the United Arab Emirates, three sets of laws may be applied upon death: Shariah Law, federal law of the United Arab Emirates and International Law. The Court of First Instance presides over these matters and the application of the three laws is dependent on the individual judge.

Shariah Law

Shariah law covers all aspects of personal, religious and community life. The beliefs are mainly derived from the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. With regard to inheritance, Shariah law is applicable to all Muslims (regardless of nationality) and expatriates without a legally registered will.

How Shariah Law Affects Inheritance

Bank accounts are immediately frozen regardless of whether a will exists or not. Any debt or dues owed by the deceased will be settled prior to any other disbursement of property. Family members get a fixed share of assets based on certain guidelines decided upon by a Shariah scholar appointed by the Court of First Instance.

Illegitimate and adopted children are not considered heirs. Additionally if a woman is pregnant at the time of her husband’s death, the estate cannot be settled until the child is born. Guardianship of children is awarded through male heirs on the father’s side of the family.


According to Federal Law No. 28 of 2005 (also known as “Personal Affairs Law”), non-Muslim expatriates can apply inheritance laws of their home country in a legally registered will. Any real property in the UAE owned by an expatriate will still be disposed of according to UAE law. Inheritance issues for all Muslims will be handled in accordance with Shariah Law. The deceased’s residence visa is immediately cancelled. Anyone under the deceased’s sponsorship will also have their visas cancelled and must leave the country within 30 days.

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