Wills and Inheritance in Qatar
If you and your spouse were to pass away tomorrow, what would happen to your children? What would happen to your assets in Qatar?
We don’t like to be reminded that we won’t live forever, but familiarising ourselves with the legal provisions on inheritance in Qatar is a meaningful step to protect our loved ones in case something devastating happens to us. Having a will in Qatar can protect your loved ones and save them a considerable amount of bureaucratic hassle. If you never thought of writing a will in Doha, here is what you should know.
Which law would apply?
Article 23 of Qatari Civil Code stipulates that “Inheritance shall be governed by the law of nationality of the deceased at the time of death.” In other words, when expatriates die in Qatar, the law of the country that issued their passport will be honoured.
Qatari law will apply only if the deceased expats have assets in Qatar but no heirs in the country. Article 251 of Qatari Family Law (Law 22 of 2006) lists seven categories of people who have inheritance rights over a deceased’s assets, in order of priority. Lacking these beneficiaries, the assets of the deceased will be devolved to the State.
Wills in Qatar
“Neither Qatari Family Law nor the Qatari Civil Code requires residents of Qatar—Qatari nationals or expats—to have a will in place,” said Mashael Al-Sulaiti, attorney and owner of Al Sulaiti Legal Advocacy & Arbitration. “There are however many advantages to having a will,” she said. “For example, it allows [residents] to donate a portion of their wealth to a charitable organisation or favour a handicapped, poor or sick relative in the inheritance process.”
Wills in Qatar are regulated by Law 22 of 2006 and can benefit “a definite or indefinite group of people, charitable associations, scientific and educational institutions and public organisations,” said Al Sulaiti. Though oral wills are valid under Qatari law, according to Al Sulaiti, written wills are recommended.
What happens if a will is not in place?
If expatriates die in Qatar and a will is not in place, their assets—including their bank accounts, cars and any valuables registered in their name—may be frozen until the heirs provide the Family Court with proof of their entitlement to those assets.
“Heirs may prove their entitlement to the deceased’s assets by producing a legal statement from their country of nationality,” explained Al Sulaiti. The form of the statement will differ depending on the country issuing it. It will also need to be authenticated in Qatar—your embassy can provide information on how to do this—before being presented to the Family Court, along with copies of the documents certifying the deceased’s ownership of the assets in question in Qatar.
According to Nigel Perera, CEO of International Financial Services, a QFCRA-regulated financial advisory firm, “The ideal situation for expats is to have a will in every country in which they own assets. Conversely, the worst situation is to have no will at all, anywhere in the world. This is called dying ‘intestate’, and it means one has decided—inadvertently or not—to allow the government and courts of each country to decide on the disposition of those assets.”
“If you have a will in your home country, then once this is executed, your assets in Qatar will follow whatever is provided for in that will,” said Perera. “There are however often significant delays in this process. For example, some judges will demand to see an attested copy of the relevant heirship law [of the deceased’s home country].”
Guardianship of children
In the unfortunate event of both parents dying, children residing in Qatar will go into the care of the Qatar Foundation for Child and Women Protection (QFCW). Perera explained that QFCW will attempt to contact the children’s next of kin and will keep the children with them until they can be released to the proper guardian or family member. The next of kin will require proof (birth certificates) that they are indeed the sibling or parents of the deceased for QFCW to release the children, he said.
According to Perera, “Having a will in Qatar would resolve this potential issue as wills are filed in English as well as Arabic, attached to an attested copy of relevant legislation from the testator’s home country, and registered with the Ministry of Justice. Wills can also appoint children’s temporary (Qatar-based) and permanent guardians in case both parents die.”