Have assets in the UAE? Secure your assets and protect your legacy with a DIFC Will and/or a DIFC Foundation

Have assets in the UAE? Secure your assets and protect your legacy with a DIFC Will and/or a DIFC Foundation

If you are an expatriate or an overseas investor with property and assets in the UAE, you must have a lifetime strategy to protect them.

The legislative changes announced on Saturday, November 7, 2020, with particular reference to Wills have been welcomed by expatriates in the UAE. However, there are misconceptions that a Will in the UAE is not necessary.

Below are the key reasons why an expat must prepare a Will in the UAE:

  • To protect the Guardianship of your children by nominating both permanent and temporary guardians.
  • To protect property, you own – UAE Law applies to real estate owned by expatriates in the UAE and is an exception to the home country laws applying to inheritance matters. You are in control of your assets and to whom they go as opposed to under Sharia Law.
  • You have the freedom to distribute your assets as you wish– you can make specific gifts, for example, to a charity. You can stipulate your personal wishes which is not an option under home country laws.
  • By having a valid Will in the UAE from a practical perspective the courts will be able to deal with the distribution of your assets, bank accounts etc with ease post-death as there is evidence of your intentions.
  • Avoid family disputes and costly court battles – which gives you peace of mind, that if the inevitable happens, your estate will be distributed in accordance with your wishes.
  • To safeguard your assets, and family and to avoid any complications it is still highly recommended to have a Will in the UAE as your home country’s laws will not enable you to reflect your own personal wishes, dictate specific asset distribution requirements, or deal with your specific gifts/requests and guardianship wishes.

The Dubai International Financial Centre provides excellent wealth protection solutions for protecting assets and property in the UAE via a DIFC Will and/or a DIFC Foundation.


Expatriates make up around 80 per cent of the UAE’s population, with most residing in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The establishment of the DIFC Courts Wills Service gives non-Muslims investing and living in the UAE the option to pass on their assets and/or appoint guardians for their children, in accordance with the instructions in their Will.

The DIFC Courts Wills Service Centre allows non-Muslim expatriates to create Wills under similar laws to the jurisdiction of England and Wales and provides the freedom to distribute their assets as they wish.

Provided you are over 21 years old, are not a Muslim, and have assets in the UAE, you can register a DIFC Will. You do not have to reside in the UAE. Not only will registering a DIFC Will allow you to transfer your assets as you wish, but the probate process is also simpler and more effective.

One of the major attractions of registering Wills through the DIFC Courts Wills Service Centre is their speedy and efficient virtual DIFC Will registration system. Even if you are an international investor and a non-UAE resident, you can still make a DIFC Will by providing virtual Will instructions to your Wills lawyer in the UAE. During your virtual wills instructions, you can provide your lawyer with details such as your chosen executors/trustees, guardians for your children, who your beneficiaries will be and how you wish your assets to be distributed.

DIFC Wills can be registered virtually, via video conferencing. Usual procedures will be followed during the video conferencing call and electronic signatures will be obtained. The signed DIFC Will can be accessible to download after that. The other option is to send a request to the DIFC Courts Wills Service Centre for the signed DIFC Will with a password-protected electronic copy. It’s a smooth and convenient process for all.

DIFC Foundations

As the UAE is a civil law jurisdiction, the provision for setting up DIFC Foundations is becoming increasingly popular. One of the most attractive features is that they are allowed to own property in Dubai. A Memorandum of Understanding exists between the DIFC and the Dubai Land Department allowing entities such as the DIFC Foundation to purchase real estate registered with the Dubai Land Department. DIFC Foundations are a legal entity which can hold wealth and assets on behalf of beneficiaries. International investors (non-residents) or residents, of the UAE can structure their assets through a DIFC Foundation. There are several advantages of a DIFC Foundation, including:

  • no corporation tax
  • solid governance structure
  • privacy and confidentiality
  • private wealth management and asset preservation
  • succession and legacy planning
  • creditor and divorce protection
  • mitigates forced heirship rights
  • charitable and non-charitable purpose
  • low set-up costs

Ranked as one of the top global financial centres, the DIFC offers an excellent wealth structuring solution for both Muslim and non-Muslim families as well as individuals. The DIFC Foundations Law is globally recognized as one of the best foundation regimes in the world. Whether it’s set up to hold a private banking portfolio, family business, real estate, or assets such as artwork or for a charitable purpose a DIFC Foundation is the most innovative way forward to control your assets. Having a DIFC Will and/or setting up a DIFC Foundation will ensure that your wealth is protected for future generations as an expatriate living in the UAE or as an international investor.

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