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New Dubai law allows non-Muslims to write wills

Law No. 15 ensures non-Muslim expats can register a will in English under internationally recognised Common Law

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Gulf News

Dubai: Non-Muslim expatriates in Dubai were on Tuesday given renewed legal protection to execute legal wills that dispose of assets and properties according to their last wishes.

A new law issued on Tuesday prescribes a “clear legal framework” that regulates inheritance, wills and probate for non-Muslim expats in Dubai who are living for longer periods in the emirate and accumulating larger, long-term assets, including investment portfolios and property.

The new law affirms that non-Muslim expats living and working in Dubai can register a will in English under internationally recognised Common Law.

The move follows the creation of a non-Muslim will registry in Abu Dhabi announced in May of this year.

For Muslims, the courts automatically apply Sharia and distribute assets to predetermined beneficiaries.

Law No. 15 was issued on Tuesday by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

“The law, which is applicable to the wills and assets of non-Muslims based in Dubai, including the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), creates a clear legal framework for non-Muslims to create wills according to their wishes,” an official statement said.

“It also outlines clear legal procedures that will encourage residents to register their wills and manage their assets in Dubai, thereby creating increased confidence in Dubai’s investment landscape.”

The new law applies in both Dubai Courts and Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts where senior officials have the legal authority to develop the regulations, policies and procedures for the registry.

The law also spells out “the liabilities and obligations of the beneficiaries of wills, the responsibilities and limitations of will executors, the regulations governing inheritance and the distribution and management of the estate as well as appeal procedures. Disputes arising from wills and probate for non-Muslims will be adjudicated by Dubai Courts or DIFC Courts, depending on the place where the wills are registered”, the government said.

“Any non-Muslim wills registered at Dubai Courts or DIFC Courts prior to the law will remain valid. The law annuls any other legislation that challenges or contradicts its articles and is valid from the date of publication and will be published in the Official Gazette.”

The right of survivorship, where assets are passed on to the surviving joint owner upon the death of the other, does not apply in the UAE.

The DIFC Wills and Probate Registry (DIFC WPR) for Non-Muslims, which covers assets in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, had 2,900 registered wills since opening in May 2015, Gulf News reported last September, with an average of 150 wills being registered each month.

In an interview with Gulf News at the time, Sean Hird, director of the DIFC WPR, said options were available should expats prefer to specifically name those to whom their assets in the UAE should go to when they die.

“We are a government service providing choice. It’s all about giving people freedom of choice — either to follow Sharia or have a will. If you are a non-Muslim, you have a choice to do a DIFC will and opt into this system which will provide you with certainty,” Hird told Gulf News in a prior interview.

Ways for non-Muslims to register a will

A lawyer can draft a will according to the expatriates’ national laws. The will can be notarised by the testator’s embassy and then attested at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the UAE.

There is also the option to have it done at the Notary Public of the Dubai Courts for roughly Dh2,250.

Wills may also be written in English by duly licensed legal consultants registered with the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Wills and Probate Registry. This may cost between Dh2,500 and Dh5,000 for a single will and from Dh4,000 to Dh10,000 for mirror wills.

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