The United Arab Emirates has introduced new legislation that governs family and personal matters, including changes to inheritance and divorce laws as part of a wide-ranging package of laws that was announced Saturday.
The new laws “confirmed and consolidated what has been in place already within the UAE Personal Status Law where expats had the option to apply their home country laws,” Nita Maru, solicitor and managing partner at TWS law firm in the UAE told Al Arabiya English.
The updated, progressive legislation aims to raise standard of living in the country for Emiratis and foreign residents living in the emirates. Some provisions allow non-Emiratis to have their personal matters governed according to the law in their home country.
“The courts now have a legal framework to actually apply the home country law in practice to inheritance matters when one passes away,” Maru said in an email.
Maru stressed that expats living in the UAE should have a will in place, and leaving instructions for how assets should be handled is even more important now. If no will is in place and a resident passes away, UAE law will apply to all assets in the emirates.
In case of death where there is no will, local courts would determine how assets are distributed. A local judge would also be responsible for choosing a guardian for any surviving children.
The government said the legal reforms were part of efforts to improve legislation and the investment climate in the country, as well as to consolidate “tolerance principles.”
For people who got married in a different country and want to get divorced in the UAE, the law where the marriage took place applies to the divorce proceedings.
Separately, it is now mandated that translators will be provided for defendants and witnesses in court if they do not speak Arabic.
In a country where expatriates outnumber citizens nearly nine to one, the amendments will permit foreigners to avoid Islamic Sharia courts on issues like marriage, divorce and inheritance.
“These new laws will now provide more confidence and peace of mind to expats that their home country law can be enforced where there is a will in place,” Maru said.
-With AP and Reuters