The impact of the new inheritance laws on UAE expatriates


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is home to over 200 nationalities, making it the hub to one of the world’s highest percentage of expatriates.  

As a result, the UAE’s environment had to adapt to foreign workers’ needs and continuously and encouragingly change laws and regulations.  

The UAE government recently introduced reforms to the inheritance laws, where assets will no longer be automatically divided according to Sharia.

What impact will this bold move have on expatriates in the UAE? 


  • The Reforms:


The new inheritance laws are part of a package that aims to escalate the country’s legal system to a new level in the international community.

Before the amendment, inheritance laws in the UAE provided that all foreigners residing in the UAE, even non-Muslims, will have their assets divided according to Sharia law. Heirs had to request an inheritance certificate that can only be issued in the UAE.

The reform provides that a UAE resident’s inheritance will no longer be divided immediately under Islamic laws. UAE expats will be able to divide their inheritance either according to the rules they choose or the laws of their country of origin. They can register their will before the Dubai Courts instead of the DIFC Courts, which means that the registration fees will be lower. 

The reform allows UAE residents without a will to apply the inheritance laws of their country of citizenship. 


  • The Impact of the Reforms:


Expats will definitely prefer to have their inheritance divided according to their home-country laws instead of the UAE, especially for non-Muslims.

Having a will in place in the UAE is highly recommended and a must for foreigners to avoid applying UAE laws to their assets.

The reform will provide more confidence to foreigners and encourage them to settle down in the UAE in the long term.  It will also attract foreign investors to the UAE and provide them with living conditions that suit them.

By giving residents the independence and freedom to choose the regulations and conduct a comfortable life, the UAE positions itself as an evolving and developed country that suit, foreign investors, and workers.  


The challenges remain in the implementation of foreign laws by UAE courts. Judges will either need translated copies of the foreign laws and be trained accordingly or appoint experts on the foreign jurisdictions.