Non-muslim expats can now register a Will under international Common Law.
The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) launched the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry (WPR) that allows non-Muslim expats to control what happens to their assets based in Dubai in the event of their death.
Nita Maru is a UK-qualified solicitor and managing partner at TWS Legal Consultants in Dubai. She is privileged to be part of the working panel which created the DFIC WPR and their rules.
Maru explains that the DIFC WPR is an administrative body which works with the DIFC Courts in the production of grants and court orders for the distribution of assets as well as guardianship. Its creation enables non-Muslim expats to register a Will under the internationally-recognised Common Law.
Should you wish to prepare a DIFC Will, it is prudent to seek the advice of a correctly licensed Solicitor. Wills are important documents that should be prepared by qualified and licensed lawyers. As noted on the Registry website, a “home-drafted Will may be invalid or ineffective, causing unnecessary burdens and expenses on your executors and beneficiaries” … “it is advisable to consult a qualified legal representative”.
How are the UAE assets of a non-Muslim dealt with after death?
The distribution of such assets is guided by UAE Federal Law (Personal Status Law and the Civil Transactions Code) and public order in accordance with Sharia custom and principles. Following a death, the UAE Courts will examine an estate and potentially distribute it according to Sharia law, where distributions are as per fixed share ratios.
What does that mean?
Under Sharia law, a surviving wife who has children qualifies for an eighth of her husband’s estate, and a surviving husband who has children qualifies for one quarter of his wife’s estate. The remainder of the estate will be distributed amongst other family members, depending on who survives the deceased at the date of death.
What about guardianship of children?
Whilst a surviving wife may be appointed as a custodian of any children of the marriage, she may not automatically be appointed as the legal guardian. A surviving husband is likely to be appointed as a custodian and legal guardian of any children of the marriage.
What then are the benefits of registering a will at the DIFC WPR?
The DIFC is the first jurisdiction in the region where non-Muslims can register a Will under common law inheritance rules. Registering of such Wills began officially on 4th May 2015 and will promote certainty amongst expatriates, promote investment in the region and avoid family members becoming involved in uncertain proceedings often encountered in the UAE Courts.
What are the requirements?
The testator must not be of Muslim faith, must be over the age of 21 years and have assets situated in Dubai. It is not a requirement to have a UAE residence visa. If a testator wishes to make provision for guardianship of their minor children, then the children must be living with the testator in Dubai.
Should you wish to prepare a DIFC Will or should you wish to review your existing Will in light of the aforementioned developments, it is prudent to seek the advice of a Lawyer registered with the Government of Dubai Legal Affairs Department. It is important to ensure that the Will is drawn up in line with the Registry’s legal requirements. Local legal advice should be sought to avoid the risk of the Will being rejected by the DIFC WPR.