“The UAE has established itself as a global role model for tolerance. We cherish tolerance as a key value yet we intend to transform that value into sustainable institutional work that will reflect positively on our peoples in the Arab world.”
Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum
Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai
Dubai has introduced an exceptionally unique solution to entertain basic asset protection needs to Foreign Investors and Expat Residents living in the United Arab Emirates, in order to make sure their assets are fully protected against any problems that may arise because of the forced heirship system applied by the Sharia Regulations in United Arab Emirates or any other conflict between the religious laws of succession between the person and the state where they live and invest.
Dubai is one of the first civil law based jurisdiction in the Middle East where non-Muslims can make and register a Will under the internationally recognized Common Law principles within the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).
DIFC has three independent bodies enabling and supporting the growth and development of businesses in the Centre: Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Authority – who is the central entity established to oversee the strategic development, operational management and administration of the Dubai International Financial Centre; Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) is the central independent regulator that grants licenses and supervises the activities of all financial and non-financial institutions in DIFC and Dispute Resolution Authority (DRA) who is responsible for the independent administration and enforcement of justice in DIFC. The DRA incorporates: DIFC Courts, Wills & Probate Registry, the Arbitration Centre and the Academy of Law.
DIFC Wills and Probate Registry was the first authority of its kind, providing such service in the Middle East. It is a simple opt-in mechanism that gives – to the non-Muslim – expatriates the legal certainty that their United Arab Emirates based assets will be transferred to their loved ones upon death according to their own wishes and not according to the forced heirship system as per the United Arab Emirates Laws that is influenced by the Islamic Sharia regulations.
The rules governing the Registry gives the non-Muslim expatriates in United Arab Emirates the ability to choose an English-language system that provides familiarity, transparency, trust for inheritance and freedom to dispose of their assets upon death as they see fit, and in accordance with the laws of their home country.
This Will can be drafted and Registered with the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry and upon the death of the person it will be recognized with all its terms. The DIFC Courts will confirm and pass the subject to the Dubai Courts for execution avoiding any other path.
The Will registered with the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry is not covering only the United Arab Emirates assets but the worldwide assets. It is worth mentioning that most of the Civil Law based jurisdictions enforce forced heirship laws and not only in Arabic or Islamic Countries. Other European and Non-Muslim countries endorse the forced heirship laws as well like France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Japan.
- Who is be able to benefit from the Registration of the Will?
Non- Muslims, who are over the age of 21 years and have any kind of assets in the United Arab Emirates. It is also applicable to parents who may require a guardianship provision to be included in the Will. Whoever has minors in Dubai or Ras al Khaimah can decide on the interim and permanent guardian for his minor children.
- What are the steps to register a Will?
The first step is to have the Will drafted. The draft of the Will must be prepared by one of the approved Wills Draftsmen to the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry. The Will is an important document that should be prepared by qualified and licensed legal practitioners and with compliance of the Registry’s legal base. Each client can choose one Wills Draftsman from the DIFC Wills and Probate website https://difcwills.ae/register-wills-draftsmen/. All the professionals mentioned there are highly qualified, some of them are also registered with the DIFC Courts and Dubai Legal Affairs Department as legal consultants who are able to provide sound legal advice.
The second step is the pre-registration. The testator can do the pre-registration in person, approaching the DIFC Wills Service Centre, or by the Virtual Registry – enables those living overseas to create and register a DIFC Will using a broadband connection in real time or can be done by your Will Draftsman.
Once the person who applied for the pre-registration, received the approval of the draft of the Will, he has to login on the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry account and register the information regarding the testator, beneficiaries, executors, children, guardians and witnesses and book an appointment with DIFC Wills and Probate Registry for the Will registration.
The presence of the key personnel mentioned in the Will might be necessary on the registration day, as in the case of the two witnesses, the appointed guardian (if applicable) or a copy of their Witness Statement on behalf of a guardian, by which they confirm to accept their appointment and that they undertake to assume parental responsibility for the children in accordance with DIFC Wills and Probate Registry Rules and in accordance with DIFC law.
- How many types of the DIFC Wills we have?
Until now the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry provides the following type of the Wills:
- Guardianship Will – which will solely provide for the appointment of guardians for the children
- Property Will – the DIFC Wills Service provides an online facility that enables eligible persons to complete and submit for registration a DIFC Will which is specific to their real estate property only. This Property Will can encompass up to 5 real estate properties (or a share in up to 5 real estate properties) that are situated in the United Arab Emirates.
- Business Owners Will – the DIFC Wills Service provides an online facility that enables eligible persons to complete and submit for registration a DIFC Will which is specific to their free zone and United Arab Emirates onshore company shares (including RAKICC registered companies). This Business Owners Will can encompass up to 5 separate shareholdings in any free zone or United Arab Emirates onshore company situated in the United Arab Emirates.
- Financial Assets Will – The DIFC Wills Service provides an online facility that enables eligible persons to complete and submit for registration a DIFC Will which is specific to their bank and brokerage accounts. This Financial Assets Will can encompass up to ten separate accounts or a share in up to ten separate accounts that are registered under the testator sole name or joint name and are legally held with a bank or brokerage firm whereby the branch at which such accounts are registered is situated in the United Arab Emirates.
Each bank account must be registered with a financial institution that is regulated as a bank by the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates and, in the case of brokerage accounts, registered with a financial institution that is regulated as a brokerage firm by the Emirates Securities and Commodities Authority. Each bank or brokerage account should hold only movable assets comprising monies, publicly traded shares, stock or other securities, or securities issued by any government authority and the testator must be the exclusive beneficial owner of the movable assets held in each bank or brokerage account.
- Full Will – which governs the distribution of your assets and encompass both assets and guardianship provisions. Should you wish to distribute your assets as well as appointing guardians for your children, you need to consider registering a Full Will.
Legal Consultants registered with the Government of Dubai Legal Affairs Department.
Wills Draftsmen registered with DIFC Wills and Probate Registry.