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Dubai Courts Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai: Dubai Courts has announced the establishment of its first inheritance department for non-Muslims, paving the way for the implementation of their wills in Dubai Courts.

The initiative enables non-Muslims to prepare and execute their wills under a clear legislative framework, ensuring the effective application of their own laws. It also comes in line with the emirate’s commitment to respecting cultural diversity and enhancing a comprehensive and advanced system of services.

Judge Mohammed Jassim Al Shamsi, Chief of the Inheritance Court at Dubai Courts, stressed that the establishment of an inheritance department for non-Muslims stems from the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who strives to streamline customer procedures. He emphasised that Dubai Courts pays utmost attention to organising non-Muslim inheritance issues in the emirate to ensure the application of their respective laws and develop litigation procedures.

According to Al Shamsi, the new department will specifically handle non-Muslim inheritance cases under certain conditions and controls. To open an estate file, a request must be made by an heir, a legatee, or a relevant party. Al Shamsi highlighted the necessity of providing various documents to open an estate file, depending on the customer’s request and the available documents.

In the first case, the documentation should comprise a legal notification, an inheritance limitation certificate, a legal instrument, or an official document delineating the heirs and their shares. In the second instance, an official document corroborating a will issued by the Dubai courts or any other UAE court, excluding the International Financial Centre courts, should be provided. In the third scenario, in the absence of the aforementioned documents, a court ruling confirming the death of the deceased and identifying the heirs is required.

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Al Shamsi noted that if the ruling is issued from outside the UAE, an estate file can only be opened once the existence of ratifications of the judgement by the UAE Embassy - Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been verified.

Al Shamsi clarified that if a request to open an estate file is based on a will not issued by the UAE courts, which represents the fourth scenario, a suit for the execution of the will is registered according to Article 18 of Law No. 15 of 2017 Concerning Administration of Estates and Implementation of Wills of Non-Muslims in the Emirate of Dubai.

With the registration of the suit, a certified copy of the applicable law for the will is attached, whether it be the law of the nationality of the testator, or the law specified in the will. It would be very important to ensure that all paperwork is complete and judicial fees are paid. The case manager must confirm these aspects. The earliest session is then determined, and all parties named in the will are notified.

Al Shamsi clarified that the First Instance Department will implement a one-session system to decide on the application within a single session. Once the judgement to accept the execution of the will is issued, it is then submitted along with the request to open the estate file. However, if further clarification or inquiry is needed, a request for approval to open the file will be submitted to the President of the Court via the ‘Weyak’ system on the Dubai Courts’ website.

Al Shamsi highlighted certain situations where the court might refrain from opening an inheritance file. These include cases where the will has been issued or approved by the DIFC courts, which hold jurisdiction for its implementation, and instances where an acknowledgment identifying heirs is issued, accompanied by an oath, either from overseas or a consulate. This might occur if the data provided is insufficient to identify all heirs. In other circumstances, Al Shamsi noted that the applicant has the option to submit a request to the court president via the ‘Weyak’ system for a review and a decision on approval.