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If you do not have a will, the UAE Law of Inheritance will be applied on your assets after your demise; and can even affect the guardianship of your children if they are in the minor age group.

As a non-Muslim expat in the UAE, you may already have a will made in your home country for your assets there. But your home-country laws of inheritance may not apply to your movable and/or immovable assets in the UAE, unless you have a registered will recognised as per UAE law.

According to a survey conducted by DIFC Wills & Probate Registry last year, nearly 60 per cent of respondents don’t see Dubai as a permanent home. 

However, 64 per cent of expats stay significantly longer in Dubai than they had originally thought, and despite 58 per cent of respondents claiming they had assets in Dubai, little more than 10 per cent out of this have a will registered in the UAE.

What can happen if you don’t have a will upon death?

- Your bank accounts will be frozen immediately for existing or contingent liabilities (regardless of it being a joint or individual accounts).

- Dependent visas will be cancelled.

- Re-appropriation of assets may be unfavourable and may not stay within your immediate family.

- Custody of minor children may go to someone you don’t prefer or the local government might have to intervene

- Life insurance claims may go into covering your liabilities or be counted as part of property to be appropriated by the Courts

- A court case appealing the automatic appropriation can take as long as five years and result in huge legal payouts.

- Bulk of your estates might go to extended family as per Sharia law.

What you need to do beforehand?

- Inform your immediate family i.e. spouse or parents about your assets and liabilities from time to time.

- Have a complete list of all your assets, including movable assets, property, life insurance, employee benefits and have an idea of your net worth.

- Always properly complete the beneficiary details on your employee benefits form.

- Try to have separate bank accounts, assets and visas with your spouse so as to avoid problems if accounts are frozen.

Steps to get a will registered in Abu Dhabi

The ‘wills’ registration office in the capital, where many non-Muslim residents register their wills, has reduced the registration charges from Dh5,500 to Dh950 from December. Read more here. 

What do you need beforehand?

• Emirates ID.

• Passport (original and a copy).

• The document “Will” to be legalised, with a sufficient number of copies for all parties concerned and a copy for records.

• Documentation that provide clear proof of the bequeathed property ownership.

• An official translation attested by the Ministry of Justice is required where the document is drafted in a language other than Arabic language.

Submit application and get approval

The application is submitted online at Abu Dhabi Judicial Department [ADJD] website. The competent employee verifies if the application meets the requirements. A notification by SMS is sent to the applicant with the approval of the application or request of modification. The application fee is paid online through ADJD website.

Processing of application

The applicant can contact the Non-Muslim Wills Registration Office to schedule an appointment for the application processing. Then the applicant has to visit on the fixed date the Non-Muslim Wills Registration Office to submit the original documents. After completing these procedures, finally the will is legalised and will be delivered by the Notary Public of the department.

Other details

• Venue: Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (Main Building)

• Timing: 8am to 2pm [Sunday to Thursday]

• Service Fee: Dh950

• Residents can contact for details at 02 651 3257 or 02 651 3262 or email: wills.non-muslims@adjd.gov.ae

Getting a will in Dubai

We spoke to Mohammad Marria from Just Wills to compile this simple yet essential guide to getting a will in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for expats.

While you can do the entire process alone, we recommend using a consultant as verifications of various documents and processing is easier with such agencies. Ensure that they are specialised in this field and always go through a trusted reference.

You can get your will registered at Dubai Courts or through the DIFC Wills and Probate registry.

Note: More details on the differences in will registration in Dubai Courts and DIFC Wills and Probate registry explained below.

Steps to get registered 

1. Drafting the will

This is the most important step of the process and while you can ask a legal consultant in your home country to help draft the will, it is essential that you get the will checked by a specialist in the UAE. A wrongly written will can tie up your assets in long and tiresome legal battles for your loved ones. Most specialised consultants offer this service as an add-on and costs can range anywhere from Dh2,000 to Dh6,000.

For DIFC Wills and Probate registry, they do not provide any will-writing services and when you go there, you must be ready with your written will. However, they have a register of companies (which is not proof of endorsement) on their website who can do it for you. It is ultimately your responsibility to decide who drafts your will.

2. Arabic translation

All documents to be submitted in Dubai Courts need to be translated to Arabic by approved legal translating centers (registered with the Courts and Ministry of Justice). Consultants can help you find ones closest to you or even take you to these centers. This can cost up to Dh1,500 per will.

For DIFC Wills and Probate registry, the documents need not be translated and you can go through the entire process of documentation in English.

3. Coverage

A will registered in Dubai Courts can cover assets and your estates across the country. Bank accounts, property, guardianship and all other clauses in the will are applicable in all emirates during execution of the will.

However, registering your will with DIFC Wills and Probate registry will give you coverage only in the emirate of Dubai.

4. Registration

Registering your will at Dubai Courts costs Dh2,165* per will while registering your Dubai-specific will at the DIFC Wills & Probate Registry can cost you upwards of Dh10,000.

5. Power of attorney

Sometimes an expat may take up Power of Attorney (PoA) for their spouse in order to give them legal control over assets during their lifetime. This is not sufficient to ensure that your family is protected upon your death.

Mohammad concurs, saying, “Taking a PoA is a great way to compliment your will, because it will enable your next of kin or trusted person to look after your assets during your lifetime. However, this is not a substitute for a will as all PoA agreements turn void once death is confirmed.”

A power of attorney draft can cost around Dh1,000 to Dh2,000 while registration costs Dh265*.

6. Guardianship will

A separate guardianship will is not mandatory in Dubai Courts and the clause can be inserted in your will. However, if you want to make a separate guardianship will, it will be considered as any other will and charged Dh2,165* as is the case normally.

7. Embassy and consulate

Once your will is notarised and registered in Dubai Courts, you need not submit anything to your embassy or consulate. However, assets in your home-country are subject to local laws and regulations. Get in touch with your embassy for all such cases.

Who will execute the will?

You can nominate your spouse, immediate family, including children or siblings who are above 21 years of age as the executor of the will. This can be a difficult job, so select a person who is trustworthy and capable of handling stress.


This story has been updated with inputs from Anwar Ahmad, Staff Reporter.

*All costs mentioned are subject to change and are correct on published date

Disclaimer: This article is an informative guide and should be taken as such; kindly address all queries and complaints to relevant legal departments in your emirate. Gulf News is not responsible for any changes in fees or processes.