Property inheritance in countries governed by Sharia principles

Property inheritance in countries governed by Sharia principles requires special attention. Sharia is a system of principles and customs based on Islamic law, drawing its foundations from the Quran, Sunnah, and Hadith.


Due to the Sharia rules, there are many misconceptions regarding the transfer of real estate through inheritance in Gulf countries that are part of the Arab States Cooperation Council.


Let’s delve into this matter.


A key factor in Sharia inheritance is the prearrangement of a will. If a property remains ownerless, it may temporarily transfer to state ownership until a court dispute is resolved. According to Sharia, male relatives have priority in inheriting property, regardless of their degree of relationship. Therefore, it is recommended to prepare all necessary legal documents in advance.


Modern secular laws do not always align with Sharia principles regarding inheritance rules. Let’s consider an example of inheritance in the UAE and rules for transferring property through inheritance.


The UAE is a Muslim country where Sharia law is enforced. Inheritance rules in the UAE are regulated by special norms, making it especially important for foreigners to carefully plan their wills. In case of improper drafting or absence of a will, property can be inherited without considering the testator’s wishes. For example, upon a husband’s death, his property may be passed on to male heirs instead of his wife.


According to UAE laws, both citizens and foreigners, upon the death of a Muslim, their property passes to family members who are Muslims, including spouses, fathers, mothers, children, grandchildren, and other relatives. Despite the implementation of Islamic law in the UAE, non-Muslim foreigners can still inherit and pass on their property.


For non-Muslim foreigners, it is essential to correctly draft a will and register it with the court and the land department of the respective emirate where the property is located. After the death of a UAE resident, all their bank accounts in the country, including joint accounts that family members may use, will be frozen. Thus, in the absence of a will, access to finances and property rights will be restricted until the inheritance matter is resolved in court.


It is important to note that individuals of any citizenship can draft a will in any of the UAE emirates, including Dubai. The necessary documents for will registration are a copy of the applicant’s passport and a sales agreement. Residency visa is not required for will registration.


In case a will is not drafted and there are no direct heirs, the deceased’s property may transfer to the state.


It is worth mentioning separately offshore companies in the UAE. Many foreigners who own real estate in the UAE through offshore companies find themselves in a complicated situation when it comes to inheritance. In some cases, property owned by an offshore company cannot be inherited, and the shareholders of the company become the inheritors. Therefore, in such cases, it is important to seek the advice of a lawyer in advance to draft a proper will and avoid potential problems during the inheritance process.


Now let’s consider an example of inheritance in Saudi Arabia.


In Saudi Arabia, inheritance rights are regulated according to Sharia principles, and they are mandatory even for non-Muslim foreigners. If the deceased has Muslim heirs, they have the right to inherit his/her property. If the deceased does not have Muslim heirs, the property can be transferred to other family members or even a charitable foundation.


There are also certain rules in Saudi Arabia that determine the share of the inheritance that can be passed on to non-heirs according to Sharia rules. If the deceased does not have Muslim heirs and has not made a will, the property can be divided among the closest relatives.


It is important to note that in countries guided by Sharia principles, transferring ownership through inheritance can be complex and may require addressing multiple legal and cultural issues. Therefore, it is recommended to consult with local lawyers to properly structure a will and avoid potential problems during inheritance.


In conclusion, the transfer of property through inheritance requires careful preparation and knowledge of the relevant rules and procedures. Organizing a will and properly documenting the process will ensure that the property is transferred according to the wishes of the testator. When it comes to inheritance, it is important to consider both secular and religious laws to make the process as smooth and fair as possible for all stakeholders.

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