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How is inheritance (indemnity & bank accounts) dealt with under Kuwait Law, if a non-Muslim expatriate worker dies in Kuwait without a written will? Alternately, how to ensure that the assets of a non-Muslim expatriate worker are given to his family in case of his death in Kuwait?

Name withheld
Answer: It becomes a little difficult to claim both the indemnity and bank accounts if an expatriate, both Muslim and non-Muslim, dies in Kuwait without a will. But the legal system makes things easier for the claimants if you know “your way around”.

First let’s deal with the easier part — claiming the indemnity. All you need is a letter from your country’s courts which clearly indicates who will inherit the dead expatriate’s assets. Once you have this judgement from the court, you have to get it attested from the Foreign Ministry in your country and then your embassy in Kuwait.

On production of these papers, the company will pay the indemnity to person who has been named the “inheritor” in the court papers or to the person who is carrying a “power of attorney” from the heirs of the expatriate. But getting the money from the dead expatriate’s accounts is a different matter because all the bank accounts will be frozen on the expatriate’s death and the money can’t be transferred to any other account unless a Kuwait court authorizes such a transfer.

To avoid this hassle, we have seen people withdrawing the money through the ATMs without informing the bank about the expatriate’s death. This is wrong and could result in legal complications for all those involved.

So, armed with a decision from the court in your country, you have to approach a Kuwait court to retrieve the funds in the frozen bank accounts. Here you could run into complications but if you have a lawyer to guide you there won’t be any problems.

First of all, the inheritors have to ask the court to address the issue according to the inheritance law of their own country and not that of Kuwait.

Because if you don’t make this clear, the dead expatriate’s assets will be distributed according to the Islamic Sharia (law).This could result in a lot of difficulties because there would be multiple heirs — mother, wife, sons, daughters — in such an event.

Once the court confirms that the inheritance papers are okay and that there are no other heirs, it will order the funds be released to the “inheritor” or to the person who has been a proper power of attorney by the “inheritor “ to follow the case. Please remember that you will be also required to clear all the dues of the deceased before the funds are released to you.

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