In a landmark move, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has set out plans to form the ‘DIFC Wills and Probate Registry’ and introduce new internationally-recognized common law principles that will allow non-Muslim individuals owning assets within Dubai to freely dispose of their Dubai estate in the event of their death.
Following her involvement with the creation of the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry, Nita Maru, Managing Partner of TWS Legal Consultants, tells us the new rules in light of the current UAE laws and what they mean for non-Muslim expatriates.
‘Currently, the distribution of a deceased’s assets is guided by UAE federal law, namely the Personal Status Law, 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. A surviving wife who has children qualifies for 1/8th of her husband’s estate, and a surviving husband who has children qualifies for 1/4th of his wife’s estate. 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. The application of such laws is at the discretion of the UAE Courts which, in turn, creates uncertainty and results in expatriates retaining funds outside of the UAE.
Following a consultation with the UAE public and legal community, the DIFC will be the first jurisdiction in the MENA region where non-Muslims can register a Will under the new inheritance rules. It is envisaged that such Wills can be registered from May 1, 2015 and will promote certainty amongst non-Muslim expatriates in passing their Dubai assets to their chosen heirs. With DIFC’s registration costs proposed at $2,800 per Will, it is of course for each individual to assess their own financial and family circumstances and the associated benefits of adopting the DIFC rules. However, the landmark move is certain to promote investment in the region and avoid family members becoming involved in uncertain proceedings often encountered in the UAE Courts.’