DIFC Courts Wills and Probate Registry

The DIFC Courts Wills and Probate Registry (WPR) is aimed at creating certainty and security for non-Muslim expats who do not want UAE laws of succession to apply to their assets.   The DIFC is the first jurisdiction where non- Muslims are able to register a will under common law rules.

In order to register a will at the WPR, the testator must not be of Muslim faith, be over the age of 21 years and must have assets in the UAE. It is not a requirement to have a UAE residence visa.  If a testator wishes to make provision for guardianship of minor children, then the children must be living with the testator in Dubai. The fees attached to registering a will are proposed to be at AED 10,000 per will or AED 15,000 for a mirror will (common for spouses).

Distribution of assets under Sharia Law and UAE Federal law

Where an individual dies without a will (intestate) the UAE courts will adhere to Sharia principles to administer the estate.

The UAE Law of Personal Status is largely based on Sharia principles, where distributions are per fixed-share ratios.

A surviving wife who has children qualifies for one eighth of her husband’s estate and a surviving husband who has children qualifies for one quarter of his wife’s estate. The remainder is distributed among the deceased’s other family members.

A surviving wife may not automatically be appointed as the legal guardian of any children of the marriage, however, she may be appointed as their custodian. On the other hand, a surviving husband is the legal guardian of any children of the marriage and is likely to be appointed as a custodian as well.

Uncertainty of distribution of assets under UAE Federal law

Non-Muslims may create a will in accordance with UAE laws and procedures which states that they want the laws of their home country to apply in regard to the distribution of assets; however, the application of this will is at the full discretion of the UAE Courts.

There are conflicting views whether the laws of the deceased’s home country shall apply on inheritance matters or Sharia laws will prevail.

Conclusion

The benefit of registering a will under the WPR is that it provides certainty for an expatriate that their assets will be distributed according to their wishes.

The DIFC is be the first jurisdiction in the MENA region where non-Muslims can register a will under internationally-recognized common law principles. The WPR works with the DIFC Courts for the production of grants and court orders for the distribution of assets.

The Registry will register the wills of non-Muslims and, upon receipt of evidence of the testator’s death, issue the necessary Court orders to allow for the distribution of the deceased’s Dubai-based assets. This will also apply to issuance of Court orders relating to Guardianship in accordance with the registered will.