How to protect your family from the worst

How to protect your family from the worst
19 December 2010

ONE of the most devastating things that can happen to any family is the unexpected death of a loved one.

Imagine how you would feel if, as a result of the death of a loved one, your bank accounts were frozen and family assets were not distributed according to the deceased, but were distributed according to the law of the land in which you are living.

The reality of the situation is that expat families living and working in the Arab world often fail to understand or are unaware of the implications of the application of Shariah law on their assets, their children and, in the case of business proprietors, their business.

It’s imperative that expats know the steps they need to take to ensure their families are protected and prepared financially for the unexpected.

Under Shariah law, a wife who has children receives only one-eighth of the estate and, without a will, this distribution is automatically applied and would most certainly be contrary to the wishes of the deceased husband.

Furthermore, all assets, including bank accounts, are seized and frozen until such time as any liabilities have been discharged to the satisfaction of the courts. Surviving family members may be left without access to money until the authorities decide how the estate should be distributed, which could take months or even years.

Not only does the absence of a will affect the family financially, it can also open doors for the authorities to intervene regarding guardianship of children.

This is especially true should the unthinkable happen and death befalls both parents at once. A will specifying alternative arrangements as to who will raise the children should be in place to fully prepare for this eventuality.

Protection of family legacies in the Arab world is a complicated, often underestimated area of the law, and expert help is critical.

Pic credit: Tom Clare/

Have you ensured your assets would be divided as you wish? How did you find the experience? Tell us your stories below.


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Lawyer and director
The Wills Specialists
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