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How to Write Your Last Will and Testament: A Guide for Expats in Dubai

Writing a will is an essential task that ensures your assets are distributed according to your wishes and that your loved ones are cared for after your passing. If you are an English expatriate or you have assets in England, it is important to prepare a will under English law for those assets. This helps avoid potential legal complications. You should also consider a will prepared under the law of the country where you are living. Here are some key steps to help you get started on drafting your Last Will and Testament:

 

  1. Catalogue Your Assets and Liabilities

Begin by creating a comprehensive list of your assets and liabilities. Include your home, car, bank accounts, investments, and other property, along with their approximate values. This inventory, known as your “estate”, will give you a clear picture of the scope of the assets you are distributing. It will also be useful to the people you appoint to administer your estate [your executors].

 

  1. Mementos and Family Heirlooms

If you have items that hold sentimental value for a particular person, you may wish to detail that item as a gift specifically for that person. Also, you may wish to make financial gifts to certain individuals. As it is not possible to state what assets you will own at the time of your death with complete accuracy, the rest should be distributed as a percentage of the value of your estate.

 

  1. Identify Your Beneficiaries

Decide who you want to inherit your assets. This could include your spouse, children, parents, siblings, or other loved ones. Drawing a family tree can be a helpful tool to identify potential beneficiaries and ensure no one is overlooked. You should choose one or more primary beneficiaries and then default beneficiaries should your first choice die before you. Where a beneficiary is under 18, you can choose when they will inherit and how much. For example 10% at 18, 40% at 21, and 50% at 25. If you have a cause you are passionate about, consider leaving a portion of your estate or specific assets to a charity or organisation. This can make a lasting impact and ensure your legacy supports the causes you care about.

 

  1. Choose Executors

Appoint one or more executors to administer your estate. They will be responsible for ensuring that your wishes are carried out and managing the distribution of your assets. It is often advisable to choose someone you trust and who is capable of handling financial and legal matters. You can also appoint a reserve, just in case your first choice is unwilling or unable to help at the time. Where beneficiaries are under the age you wish them to inherit, the executors usually become the trustees of the child’s inheritance.

 

  1. Guardianship for Minor Children

If you have children under 18, for whom you have parental responsibility, it is crucial to designate guardians for them. This ensures that your children will be cared for by someone you trust if something happens to you. You can appoint a person with the same values as you and who has agreed to assume responsibility for your children. You can also choose a reserve to retain control if your first choice cannot act at the required time. Trust law permits the trustees to pay for the education, welfare, and maintenance of the beneficiary from the trust fund, so there’s no need to worry about where the money will come from to raise your child, provided you have sufficient assets or life insurance.

 

  1. Draft the Will

You can draft your will yourself using templates, or you may hire a lawyer or will draftsman to ensure it meets all legal requirements. The will should be clear, concise, and include all necessary details to avoid any misunderstandings or disputes. UK government-funded website, Money Helper, recommends those with assets outside of the UK seek professional advice.

 

  1. Sign and Witness the Will

For your will to be legally binding, it must be signed by you in the presence of two independent witnesses who also need to sign the will. Witnesses should not be beneficiaries or married to beneficiaries.

 

  1. Store the Will Safely

Keep the original will in a safe place and inform your executors where it is stored. There is no requirement under English law to register your will. There are many businesses offering will storage services. HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) provides a competitive will storage service.

 

  1. Review and Update Regularly

Periodically review your will to ensure it still reflects your wishes, especially after major life events such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or significant changes in your assets.

 

Additional Considerations

 

Your Funeral Wishes

Clearly express your preferences for your burial or cremation. It is important to detail your wishes regarding what should happen to your body after your death to ensure they are respected. Although wills are usually read after the funeral you should let your family know your wishes too.

 

Organ Donation

Think about whether you wish to donate your organs for medical purposes. Including this in your will can provide clear guidance to your executors and medical professionals. As with funeral wishes, these should also be communicated clearly to family members as organ donation is a time-critical event.

 

Pets

Our pets generally have shorter lives than us, however, you may wish to provide details of how you would wish any pet you own at the time of your death to be treated. This could include who will take care of it and perhaps a financial gift to help with the costs.

 

Legal Advice

Consulting a professional will draftsman can provide peace of mind and ensure your will is legally sound.

 

Complex Estates

For larger or more complex estates, professional advice is particularly important. For example where there are children from a previous relationship or marriage between people from different countries.

 

Inheritance Tax

Consider potential inheritance tax implications and how to mitigate them through effective estate planning. For most UK expats resident in the UAE, their worldwide estate will be assessed for UK Inheritance Tax. This tax is charged at a flat rate of 40% after allowances, exemptions, and reliefs.

 

Lasting Power of Attorney

As we are living longer, the number of people suffering from degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease is increasing. A lasting power of attorney gives those people who can no longer act for themselves a say in who acts for them and what they are able to do. When preparing a will, many people consider LPAs too.

 

Conclusion

Creating a Last Will and Testament is a vital step in planning for the future. It not only ensures your wishes are carried out but also provides peace of mind for your loved ones during difficult times. If you need assistance in drafting your will under English law while living in Dubai, do not hesitate to reach out for professional guidance. Take control of your future today and let your will be a testament to your love and consideration for your family and the causes you care about.

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