Expert advice on how to write a will in the region
Time Out Bahrain staff
Expert James Hartland on why you need a will and a few things to consider.
The definition of a will (or testament) is “a legal declaration by which a person names one or more people to manage his or her estate and provides for the distribution of his or her property after death”.
This article aims to help those who’ve already thought about it by providing both the facts and encouragement to make the next step.
The renowned business guru Stephen Covey, author of ‘Seven habits of highly effective people’, stated that one of the key habits was to ‘begin with the end in mind’.
Making a will obviously falls into the category of common sense, making things easier for the loved ones you might leave behind. Of course no one likes to think about death, but we all know it’s the one certainty we all have to face at some stage. So adequate planning will give you the peace of mind that your family and partners will be able to cope financially when you’re gone, eliminating the additional stress that monetary worries can bring at such a difficult time.
If you are the main earner and have outstanding debts such as mortgages or loans, it’s essential you have life insurance in place, which as a minimum should cover these debts.
If you also have children or other dependents, the reality is that you will need a significant amount of life insurance to provide for them.
So, who do you turn to when dealing with sensitive issues like this? Particularly if your situation is complicated by living abroad or having a spouse who is of a different nationality? In these situations, writing a will becomes even more complex. Particularly if you own property in multiple jurisdictions, are single but want to provide for a partner or have children from a previous marriage to consider.
If you already have a financial advisor they should be able to help with many of these issues, whether it’s structuring a suitable will or recommending someone who can. If, however, you don’t have a financial advisor, then a solicitor would be a good place to start, but generally they will only be able to provide advice in the country where they work. This could mean that if your situation is complex they may not be that effective. In Bahrain, there is no need to write a will if you are a local, as the laws of inheritance fall within Islamic Sharia Law. This law covers both local Bahrainis and Muslim expats. However if a Bahraini owns property in another country it’s likely they will need to make a will in that country to cover those assets.
If you are an expat living in Bahrain, or most of the other GCC countries, and are a non-Muslim, the authorities there will normally respect any will you have written in your home country if you die while resident in Bahrain. But if there is no will in place, the situation can become extremely messy, lengthy and ultimately cause your heirs and beneficiaries a lot of distress.
Many expats who live and work in Bahrain stay for a long time and will often not leave until they retire and their visa is cancelled. Sometimes these long-term expats may also not retire where they were born, which can further confuse things. Ideally during their working lives in Bahrain they should have a will in place in the country where they were born.
The key message is that whether you are a long-term or short-term expat, before you move to work abroad you should make sure your will is in place and is regularly updated to reflect your latest wishes. It is likely that for most expats their assets are likely to be outside Bahrain. Any will should take into account where those assets are and the laws of the country where they are situated.
So once you have decided to take that first step and make a will, there are a number of things to consider depending on your personal situation. If you are a couple with children, especially young children, then you will almost certainly need to consult with family or friends when making decisions regarding their care and provision until they are responsible adults.
A married couple with children would need to discuss, who they wish to appoint as ‘guardian’ for their children. Before appointing a ‘guardian’ it is crucial to discuss with the proposed guardian to make sure they would be happy to perform this role should the need arise.
When making a will you will need to appoint executors who must also be notified about their role, so they can confirm they understand the implications and are happy to be named as executor. Generally couples will appoint each other but there should be at least two other executors to cover the event of both parents dying at the same time. The role of executor is to manage your financial affairs after you die and also to reconcile your tax affairs with the relevant authorities.
The ideal candidate for the role of executor would be relatives or close friends who have an understanding of financial affairs and who are honest, responsible and well organised.
So for expats about to move abroad or already in residence, we strongly advise making a will as an absolute priority and something which in a majority of cases will be reasonably straightforward and comparatively cheap.
Deciding to make a will inevitably helps you to consider other areas of financial planning, and having someone independent and experienced will undoubtedly make that process easier and leave nothing to chance. James Hartland works as a Partner in Star Capital Finance and is a qualified will writer with more than 20 years’ experience. He offers a free initial consultation and can be contacted at www.scfinance.cz firstname.lastname@example.org.