Dubai: As an expatriate living in the UAE, how aware are you of the laws that would affect your loved ones in terms of inheritance and distribution of your assets? Recent amendments to the UAE’s laws have made it easier for expatriates to implement the laws of their home country when it comes to personal matters like marriage, divorce and inheritance.
Ammendments to the Personal Status Code and the Civil Law announced on November 7, 2020, give the expatriates living in the UAE the option to choose the law that would be applied to their inheritance in order to ensure the stability of the financial interests of the foreign investors in the country.
What do the changes mean?
The new changes stipulate that inheritance would be dealt with as per the nationality of the deceased person at the time of his death. As for the general terms of the will and other post-mortem terms, they would be dealt with according to the law of the country specified in the will. If that condition is not specifically mentioned in the will, the law of the country of nationality of the deceased person at the time of his/her death will be applied.
Ruksana Ellahi, Senior Associate at Al Tamimi & Company, explained what the amendments for expatriates living in the UAE are:
Ruksana Ellahi, Senior Associate at Al Tamimi & Company
“The recent changes allow for the application of the law of an expatriate’s home country in the instances of divorce and separation, in determining the rights of a spouse. The amendments further allow for expatriates to apply the laws of their home country in relation to inheritance of their UAE estate, so that the distribution of an individual’s estate will take place according to the laws of the country of which the individual is a citizen, instead of the application of UAE law (which codifies Islamic Sharia principles on inheritance). However, an exception remains with respect to UAE real estate, which shall continue to be subject to UAE laws, unless a will has been registered in the UAE,” she said.
This is where having a registered will in place becomes essential to ensure your assets are distributed as per your preference.
According to Ellahi, there are three options available to allow a non-Muslim to register a will in the UAE:
1. Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Wills Service
2. Abu Dhabi Judicial Department
3. Dubai Courts
What is the difference between each and how can you apply? Here is all you need to know.
“The DIFC Wills Service allows eligible non-Muslim individuals to formally register their English language will according to the principles of testamentary freedom. This allows individuals to choose to dispose of their UAE or worldwide based assets upon their death as they see fit,” Ellahi told Gulf News.
There are different types of wills available through the DIFC Courts Wills Service:
1. A Full Will, which encompasses all assets and guardianship provisions.
2. A Property Will, which can apply for up to five properties in the UAE.
3. A Guardianship Will, which appoints both interim and permanent guardians for children.
4. A Financial Assets Will, which applies specifically to bank and brokerage accounts; and
5. A Business Owners Will, which applies to free zone or UAE onshore companies
According to Ayesha Bin Kalban, Deputy Registrar at DIFC Wills Service, property wills, business owners wills and financial assets wills already had a virtual registry at DIFC. The courts have now started an online service for Full Wills.
“The registration of Full Wills happens via video conferencing, enabling the service to be accessed remotely from your smartphone, tablet or desktop devices and from the comfort of your home. The system allows the Testator and two witnesses to join in on the video conferencing call from different locations, and further allows an approved will to be directly uploaded on the system and to affix electronic signatures,” Herriott said.
How do I begin the process?
The first step is to reach out to a legal practitioner registered with DIFC Courts, who can draft your will following the basic requirements as laid out by the UAE law.
This is a crucial step, because if you do not fulfil the basic legal requirements, your will would not be enforceable.
You can do so, by visiting the following website: https://www.difccourts.ae/difc-courts/services#wills_service
Drafting the will is the most detailed part of the process, as you would need to select your beneficiaries, choose the executor of your will, appoint a guardian for underage children and be specific about who gets what. This is another reason you should consider getting a legal expert to guide you through the process.
Once you have drafted the will, you would then need to book an appointment online by visiting https://eregistry.difccourts.ae/#login or via the DIFC Wills mobile app, which is available on Apple AppStore and Google PlayStore.
You would then need to make the necessary payments in order to go ahead with the registration.
Cost of DIFC wills
The cost of your will registration can vary depending on the type of will. Also, single wills – made for an individual – can cost less compared to a mirror will – which a couple can opt for. Mirror wills are virtually identical wills where one person in a couple leaves their estate to the other in the event of their passing away.
This is the cost of wills as listed by the DIFC Wills Service Centre:
(covering all movable and immovable assets)
Single Will: Dh10,000
Mirror Wills: Dh15,000
(covering guardianship provisions for minors below the age of 21)
Single Will: Dh5,000
Mirror Wills: Dh7,500
(covers shares in up to five real estate properties; can be registered in the DIFC Wills Service Centre office or via Virtual Registry)
Single Will: Dh7,500
Mirror Wills: Dh10,000
Business Owners Will
(covers shares in up to five different companies; can be registered in the DIFC Wills Service Centre office or via Virtual Registry)
Single Will: Dh5,000
Mirror Wills: Dh7,500
Financial Assets Will
(covers shares in up to 10 different bank accounts; can be registered in the DIFC Wills Service Centre office or via Virtual Registry)
Single Will: Dh5,000
Mirror Wills: Dh7,500
Registering the will
At the registration hearing, which is now being done online, you would need to be present along with two witnesses.
You would need the following documents during this process:
• Official IDs of the two witnesses
• Your unsigned draft will
• Your Emirates ID, passport and proof of payment.
Once the details have been reviewed, all parties will be able to affix electronic signatures to complete the process.
How long will the process take?
The registration of a will in person at the DIFC Wills Service takes approximately 45 minutes to one hour.
Abu Dhabi Courts
The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) has rules relating to succession and inheritance matters for non-Muslims holding assets in the UAE.
Any non-Muslim having either assets or family in the UAE can register wills in Abu Dhabi. Registration can either be done by visiting the offices of Wills Registration Office at Abu Dhabi Judicial Department or through video conferencing. For registration through video conferencing, the testator must either be a UAE resident or has to be in the UAE on a visit visa.
“The new office allows non-Muslims with assets in Abu Dhabi and other emirates to have the option to distribute their estates as they so choose. It also offers flexible legal options, to assist non-Muslim families in the event of death,” Elllahi said.
• Emirates ID and Passport (original and copy)
• The will draft, with a sufficient number of copies for all relevant parties and a copy for the records.
• Necessary proofs, evidencing the ownership of the bequeathed properties also need to be submitted (original and copy).
• Presence of the applicant before the Non- Muslim Wills and Probates Office (the process is also done online).
• If the applicant is a representative of the individual under whose name the will has been drafted (the principal), the Power of Attorney also needs to be submitted, limited to making wills and subject to the will conditions.
• If the document is not in Arabic, it should be translated by a legal translation office certified by the Ministry of Justice.
• Any document issued outside the country must be authenticated by the competent authorities, like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
Steps to follow
The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department provides the following steps that need to be followed by anyone wanting to register a will:
1. Submit the application and the required documents through available channels
2. An SMS is sent to the customer to inform him/her of the status of the application
3. Pay the prescribed fees.
4. Contact the non-Muslim Wills and Probates Office to schedule an appointment for probating the will.
5. Approach the Non-Muslim Wills Office on the set date to submit the original documents and to have the will probated.
The process can be completed online through the following link: https://www.adjd.gov.ae/EN/Pages/EServiceDirectory.aspx#
You can also contact the ADJD Wills and Probates office on 02 6513257 or 02 6513262
The Dubai Local Courts allow non-Muslims to notarise a bilingual will before a Notary Public.
2. Emirates ID (if available);
3. Title deeds of property (if mentioned in the Will);
Acording to Ellahi, it is advisable to place a Schedule of assets and liabilities, which contain all your local and overseas assets, an estimated market value of the assets, and your outstanding debts, with the registered will to give the legal administrators of the estate information on the individual’s estate. This can be amended at any point throughout the expat’s life.
Step 1: Draft the will
As mentioned earlier, drafting a will should be done by employing the services of a legal counsel, to ensure all the requirements are fulfilled and the will is drafted in a way that ensures it is enforceable.
Step 2: Send the will to Dubai Courts
This step can be completed by your legal counsel, and is done online.
Step 3: Registration
Personal attendance will be required before the Notary Public to sign and finalise all of the will formalities.
The fees for executing and notarising a will before the Dubai Courts amounts to approximately Dh2,000.