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Wills registration for non-muslims – DIFC courts.

Wills registration for non-muslims – DIFC courts.

By DIFC Courts in coordination with DP World UAE Region legal department

Based on the initiatives aimed at promoting greater cooperation between the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (Jafza) and the Dispute Resolution Authority of the DIFC, mainly the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two parties, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem – Chairman of the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation and the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority, and Dr Michael Hwang – Head of the Disputes Resolution Authority and DIFC Courts, in September 2016, companies operating under the Jebel Ali Free Zone, their employees, residents and investors in the Free Zone may obtain dispute resolution services, including small claims from the DIFC Courts, as well as obtaining other services of the DIFC Courts.

Purpose of the Will

While it may be tempting for many expatriates living in Dubai to focus solely on short-term objectives, it is important to take long- term realities into consideration. Nothing is more important to them than their loved ones, and that is why it is so vital that their affairs are in order to ensure their loved ones are taken care of.

Without a recognised and enforceable will, a person’s assets are normally divided according to the UAE’s sharia-based law, whether or not they are Muslim. Property is distributed among family members according to a pre-determined formula.

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 both peace of mind for residents, as well as enhances Dubai’s attractiveness as a destination for expatriate talent and investment. To that end, the DIFC Courts launched a Wills Service, giving non-Muslims investing and living in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah the option to secure their assets and their family’s future through a common law will. This ensures their assets will be distributed in accordance with their wishes.

In order to register a will, the requirement are that:

  • A person is not Muslim and has never been a Muslim
  • A person is over 21 years of age
  • A person owns assets in Dubai and/or Ras Al Khaimah and/or have minor children residing with him in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah

Choosing the right Will

Eligible individuals have the option to register different types of Wills depending on the assets they wish to cover. Before deciding which will is right for them, it is important to think through important decisions such as who the beneficiaries of their assets would be and how they would like them distributed in the event of their death. There are currently five types of DIFC Wills that can be registered.

Guardianship Will

The ability to appoint guardians, both interim and permanent, puts the power of decision making firmly back in a person’s hands, giving him the reassurance that he needs. This will allow him to put in the necessary arrangements for the care of his children should he and/or his partner pass away.

Property Will

This Will is specific to real estate and can encompass up to five properties (or a share in up to five real estate properties). This will can also be utilised by investors purchasing property in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, without actually being a resident.

Business Owners Will

This will is specific to free zone and UAE onshore company shares (including RAK International Corporate Centre registered companies). It can encompass up to five separate shareholdings in any free zone or UAE onshore company situated in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah.

Financial Assets Will

This will be specific to bank and brokerage accounts. It can encompass up to ten separate accounts or a share in up to ten separate accounts that are registered in a person’s sole name or joint name.

See Also

The Full Will

This Will encompasses both assets and guardianship provisions, covering both the well-being of a person’s children as well as his financial assets. If a person registers a Full Will and starts a family at a later date, the Full Will can also be modified at that time to include the required guardianship provisions.

Preparing the Will

Once decided on the type of will needed, it is strongly advised to consider taking legal advice in its preparation. The rules set down certain minimum requirements that must be met for a will to be registerable and if these are not met, the will would be unenforceable. To help find a suitable lawyer, the Wills Service publishes a list of legal practitioners that have met certain minimum standards in relation to their knowledge of the rules and in relation to drafting DIFC Wills.

Registration process

You can make an appointment online or on the mobile app to register and pay the booking fee. When attending your appointment, you need to bring a witness, your unsigned draft will, Emirates ID, passport and proof of payment.

In addition, there is an option to use a Virtual Registry, which enables those living overseas to create and register a DIFC Will using a broadband connection in real time. Investors and former residents can access the Virtual Registry from anywhere in the world and be connected, via video link, to a Compliance Officer sitting in Dubai.

Once your will is completed and registered, it is stored as an encrypted file for 120 years from the person’s date of birth in the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry and can be updated for a nominal fee should he wishes to make amendments.

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