UAE: New DIFC Wills and Probate Registry Rules

November, 2019 – UAE – Senat MEA Legal Consultancy

Estate planning is an important consideration, regardless of your circumstances, involving precautionary placement in asset protection and delegation of care – all of which should be taken into account long in advance of one having any need to deliberate over such things.

A Last Will and Testament is a document executed by a Testator to dictate their final wishes in the event of death. In the UAE, however, the importance of a Will cannot be overstated given that Sharia law is the underlying system in the UAE. Therefore, Islamic law principles guide the determination of status surrounding marriage, divorce and child custody.

In the event that a non-Muslim passes away without a Will in the UAE, Federal Law No. 5 of 1985, concerning the issuance of Civil Transactions Law of the UAE (“the Civil Code”), and Federal Law No. 28 of 2005 regarding the UAE Personal Status Law (“the Personal Status Law”) guide the local Courts in the distribution of the assets of the deceased resulting in principles of Sharia Law being applied against the estate of a non-Muslim in which case certain mandatory rules of division of the deceased estate will apply.

Although Sharia is, by default, the allocated system determining succession, certain available options exist for non-Muslim persons that wish to allocate their estate alternate to the method prescribed.

The Wills Service Centre was established by Resolution No. 4 of 2014 issued by His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the President of Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), and its authority re-affirmed by Dubai Law No. 15 of 2017 issued by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, regulating inheritance, Wills and Probate for non-Muslims.

The preferred forum for valid and enforceable testament is thus the Wills Service Centre which provides administrative support to the DIFC Courts Wills Registry and which provides a specific mechanism for expatriates to define issues of guardianship, distribution of assets and inheritance.

On 30 June 2019, the Registrar of the Wills Service Centre issued new Rules regarding the drafting of Wills in the DIFC. The new Rules permit Wills registered at the Centre to cover worldwide assets instead of, as was previously the case, only those located or present within the Emirate. The witnesses required at registration was also amended to ensure that two witnesses are present with the Testator at execution.

The Wills Service Centre has also pledged to become paperless, in order to follow the Dubai Government’s strategy to go paper-free by 2021. Consequently, all Wills executed at the Centre will be digitally saved and the original destroyed. In the event of death, the digital version is filed at Probate and treated as the original.

The Wills Service Centre offers different types of Wills:

  • Business Owners Will
  • Guardianship Will
  • Property Will
  • Financial Assets Will
  • Full Will (which can be executed as a ‘Mirror Will’ with a spouse)

For registration of any of the above Wills, the Testator must be non-Muslim and be over the age of 21 years old. A Guardianship Will may only be valid concerning minors habitually resident in the UAE.

For more information on the above or in other matters, please contact Emma Cronin or Rena Clute-Simon at info@senatmea.com.

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