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The DIFC Wills & Probabate Registry started providing the unique common law registration and probate service in May 2015 Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: For non-Muslim residents, there is no need for you to have multiple wills in the UAE as Dubai is now allowing UAE-wide assets, even those abroad, to be registered here in the emirate.

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts on Wednesday announced that it is expanding its scope for will registrations and can now accommodate residents and investors with assets across the UAE and even abroad. The entity previously accepted only wills with assets in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah.

DIFC Courts administers a unique English-language common law system that offers swift, independent justice to settle local and international commercial or civil disputes. It is also the same court that issues enforceable judgments on wills filed by expatriates.

5,000

wills registered in DIFC Courts since the service started in 2015

The right of survivorship, where assets are passed on to the joint owner upon the death of the other, is not recognised in the UAE. Muslims automatically follow the Sharia law when distributing assets of the deceased.

Option for non-Muslim residents

Non-Muslims, however, have the option to draft and register a will should they want to choose their heirs and who gets which assets.

Zaki Bin Azmi, Chief Justice, Chief Registrar, said the decision to expand the services of the courts was based on public demand.

With almost eight million expatriates residing in the UAE, the Government of Dubai and the DIFC Courts recognised the need for an innovative legal solution for non-Muslims that provides peace of mind for residents and investors, as well as enhance Dubai and the UAE’s attractiveness as a destination for expatriate talent and investment

- Zaki Bin Azmi, Chief Justice, Chief Registrar, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts

“With almost eight million expatriates residing in the UAE, the Government of Dubai and the DIFC Courts recognised the need for an innovative legal solution for non-Muslims that provides peace of mind for residents and investors, as well as enhance Dubai and the UAE’s attractiveness as a destination for expatriate talent and investment,” Bin Azmi said.

“Recognising the increased demand, we have now amended our rules to expand the remit of this public service to assets across all the emirates of the UAE and beyond.”

Clients with existing registered wills with the DIFC Courts may amend the wills for free from July 1 until August 31 to include all their assets irrespective of their location.

Summit Ahuja, Estate Planner at Just Legal Consultancy in Dubai, lauded the move specifically for registering assets from across the country.

“When it comes to the move for a nation-wide will attested by DIFC it’s all obviously welcome because it then negates the requirement of our clients to have multiple wills for multiple jurisdictions. I believe the client who have a sizeable estate spread all over the UAE will certainly benefit from it,” Ahuja told Gulf News.

85lawyers

representing over 80 law firms, based in the UAE and overseas, registered as will draftsmen

He, however, urged clients with assets abroad to study their options first before making major decisions.

“This is something clients will have to look and understand the pros and cons of because for countries like the US, the UK, Australia, Europe, first of all, there are inheritance taxes in these countries. So whether this will would clearly suffice for that or not that is something they need to look at,” Ahuja explained.

“Secondly, majority of countries in Europe follows the principle of civil law. This basically means there is a limitation on the percentage of what one can give to wife and kids. Whether this particular will would be able to suffice to that need or not, this is something clients will have to decide on a case by case basis.”

Ahuja said deciding on asset distribution abroad is done subjectively.

“My advice to them is to sit down with their local lawyers or estate planners to understand their asset structure and how they wish to distribute them. For countries that have the principles of common law like Australia, Canada, UK, India, Singapore, estate planners can do one will for them which could be the DIFC one or, if needed, the client could look into two separate wills for each jurisdiction,” he said.

Since the service began in 2015, the DIFC Courts have registered over 5,000 wills, with more than 85 lawyers representing more than 80 law firms, based in the UAE and overseas, registered as Wills Draftsmen.

Why you need a will

The right of survivorship, where assets are passed on to a joint owner upon the death of the other, is not recognised in the UAE. Muslims automatically follow Sharia when distributing assets of the deceased. Non-Muslims, however, have the option to draft and register a will should they want to choose their heirs and who gets which assets.

What has changed?

DIFC Court previously accepted only wills with assets in Dubai and RAK.

What about existing wills?

Clients can amend these wills for free till August 31 to include all their assets irrespective of their location.

How to get a will drafted

DIFC Courts have vetted will draftsmen in advance. Log on to https://difcwills.ae/register-wills-draftsmen to find one