British expat Graham Foxwell has been working as a financial advisor in Qatar since 2005. His wife died in 2010, and it was this life-changing event that motivated him to raise awareness among expats on writing and maintaining a legal will in Qatar. Here, he explains how to go about it.
My wife Anne died six years ago when I was in the middle of changing jobs in Qatar. This meant I had no life insurance or medical insurance in place. I had two kids to support, and huge medical bills to pay. I ended up in financial difficulty.
My experience demonstrates how important it is to have all of your paperwork in order in Qatar – not just a legal will, but also life insurance and savings too, should the worst happen and you need to survive on your own.
Realizing that many expats don’t have the first clue about how to protect their families in Doha if they die, I started offering free seminars about will planning in Qatar two years ago.
Make sure your will is legal
If you don’t have a will already, or aren’t sure if yours is legal in Qatar, this is what you need to do:
The simplest and cheapest way to start is to get a will drawn up in your home country.
Then you will need to get this attested at the Qatar Embassy in your home country, and then translate it into Arabic, and keep this translation with your will at all times.
Then to be doubly sure, you should get it registered in Qatar. The Ministry of Justice near City Center mall can advise you of how to do this. It’s best if you go to the ministry in person to ask.
If for some reason you don’t get around to having the translation done of your will, it’s not the end of the world. The Qatari authorities will just ask for it to be translated later before they act upon it.
Alternatively, you can ask a Qatari lawyer to produce a will for you, but this is an expensive option, and not really necessary. Qatar will respect a will from another country as long as you’ve followed the steps above.
If you’re a Muslim expat, you should know that you can also get a will done, even though Sharia law applies to you in the Qatar courts. Whatever your faith, a will made in your home country will still be valid.
Also, for those of you with kids – I suggest that you lay out in your will who you would like to take care of your children should you and your spouse both die while in Qatar.
Make sure these people are named clearly. This will mean that the authorities know who to send the children to until other family members arrive in Qatar to take care of them.
Power of Attorney
The other aspect you should consider is to get a Power of Attorney done here. This is very simple to do and worth it.
This is another way of telling the Qatari authorities who you want to look after your children should both parents die, and it also tells the courts who your assets go to, like your vehicle(s), end of service benefits, any life insurance and cash in the bank.
All this can be done in Qatar at the Ministry of Justice.
On the bottom floor of that building is a pool of typists who will do the letter for you according to your wishes (best to write them down for the typist in advance).
Once you have the documents in hand, you need to take them upstairs for a signature and stamp. The typists will tell you where to take it to get it signed.
This all costs about QR50 and beats using a lawyer who will charge the earth here. While these steps take some time to execute, it’s worth the wait.
Other things to consider
It’s well known that banks in Qatar will freeze the accounts of people who’ve died.
This can cause serious problems for relatives living in Qatar who find themselves without day-to-day living expenses while they wait for their loved one’s estate to be settled.
I always advise people to have money in a bank account overseas to make sure that they will still have access to cash for expenses.
If you have arranged a Power of Attorney, this will shorten the time it takes to unfreeze the account.
It’s also worth noting that if you have a joint account, you can arrange with your bank to maintain access for either party should one spouse die.
Do you have any suggestions to share? What has your experience been when making a will in Qatar?
Graham Foxwell is planning further seminars in Qatar this fall. For more details, you can join his Facebook group, An Expat’s Guide to Financial Matters.