Dubai Wills for British Expats and Non-Muslims – Frequently Asked Questions

Being the first UK based law firm able to register Wills in Dubai for non-Muslims, we are uniquely placed to advise the British expat community living and working in Dubai to ensure the right legal steps are taken in relation to their asset distribution and Will drafting, whether located in the UK and/or Dubai.

Here, we have set out some of the frequently asked questions about Dubai Wills for British expats and non-Muslims.

  1. What is the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Wills and Probate Registry?
  2. Won’t my current Will cover my Dubai assets?
  3. What are the requirements to make a Dubai Will?
  4. Do I have to be a resident of Dubai to register a Will?
  5. What assets can be covered?
  6. Can I include assets I own outside of the Emirate of Dubai in the Will?
  7. Can Guardianship be covered in a Will?
  8. Do my Executors and/or Guardians have to be residents of Dubai?
  9. Who can be an Executor?
  10. Are there specific requirements for my Guardians?
  11. Are different types of Wills available?
  12. What is a Guardianship Will?
  13. What is a Property Will?
  14. Who can draft the Will?
  15. Do I have to attend the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry?
  16. What should I take to the meeting at the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry?
  17. Do my appointed Executors and Guardians have to come to the appointment?
  18. Can I bring a beneficiary to the appointment?
  19. How many witnesses do I need to bring?
  20. What happens after I have signed the Will?
  21. What shall I do to protect my assets outside Dubai?

1. What is the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Wills and Probate Registry?

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) established a Wills and Probate Registry which launched in May 2015. As a result, any non-Muslim with assets in Dubai can now execute and register a Will in English under the jurisdiction of the DIFC and its courts.

2. Won’t my current Will cover my Dubai assets?

In the UAE, the laws of succession that will apply on your death will depend on whether you are Muslim or non-Muslim. If you are Muslim, then Sharia law will apply. A non-Muslim can make a Will, however, it is up to the local UAE courts to decide whether to uphold the Will. Experience shows that immediately upon death, the deceased’s assets will be frozen (bank accounts, property and even cars) as traditionally, the UAE courts will automatically impose Sharia law which may take many years and much expense to graduate through an appeal cycle to achieve an outcome that reflects the existing Will.

With no Will, Sharia law provides that a surviving wife who has children will qualify for one eighth of her deceased husband’s estate, and a surviving husband who has children qualifies for one quarter of his deceased wife’s estate. The remainder of the estate would be distributed among other family members. In addition, the UAE has no ‘right of survivorship’ concept under which jointly owned property can automatically pass to the surviving owner.

3. What are the requirements to make a Dubai Will?

The key requirements are that;

  • You are not a  Muslim and have never been a Muslim;
  • You are over 21 years old;
  • You have assets situated in Dubai; and
  • The Will is executed in accordance with DIFC requirements. 

If you require a Guardianship provision included in the Will, the children relevant to the Guardianship must be living in Dubai.

4. Do I have to be a resident of Dubai to register a Will?

No, you do not have to be a resident of Dubai in order to register a Will at the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry.

5. What assets can be covered?

The Will can cover any assets physically located or registered in the Emirate of Dubai, including real estate.

6. Can I include assets I own outside of the Emirate of Dubai in the Will?

According to the Rules, the Will may only contain movable and immovable property situated in the Emirate of Dubai; anything outside of the Emirate of Dubai cannot be included in the Will.

7. Can Guardianship be covered in a Will?

Yes, the Guardianship of minor children habitually resident in Dubai with the testator may be addressed in a standard Will, or alternatively, in a specific Guardianship Will.

8. Do my Executors and/or Guardians have to be residents of Dubai?

There is no requirement under the Wills and Probate Registry Rules for Executors and/or Guardians appointed in your Will to be residents of Dubai.

9. Who can be an Executor?

A family member, a friend or a legal representative can be Executors. Being appointed as an Executor comes with its set of specific duties.

10. Are there specific requirements for my Guardians?

Your Guardians cannot be Muslim. You cannot have more than two Guardians. Interim Guardians are those who are present in Dubai with an Emirates ID. They are provided with certain powers but must defer to Permanent Guardians as to travel. Permanent Guardians are those with whom the child(ren) will permanently reside. If you have a daughter, you must appoint either a couple or a woman to act as the Interim of Permanent Guardian. 

In addition, the Registrar will only register the Wills or the Guardian Appointment if the Guardians consent to the appointment in a Statement. We can help draft the Statement.  

11. Are different types of Wills available?

There are three different types of Wills available:

  • Single full Will (covers everything)
  • Guardianship Will
  • Property Will

12. What is a Guardianship Will?

A Guardianship Will specifically allows you to appoint a Guardian (either interim of permanent) for your children. If you wish to pass on any other assets owned by you to nominated beneficiaries, including any property, then you will need either a Property Will or full Will depending on the circumstances.

13. What is a Property Will?

A Property Will specifically covers up to five real estate properties (or a share in any such five properties) that you may own in Dubai. You must meet the standard requirements detailed above. If you wish to pass on any other assets owned by you to nominated beneficiaries or deal with Guardianship then you will need a full Will.

14. Who can draft the Will?

You may draft your own Will, however, your Will represents an extremely valuable and important legal document and we highly recommend you use the services of a licensed legal practitioner when drafting your Will. If you are using a legal practitioner, he or she must be registered with the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry. 

15. Do I have to attend the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry?

Once the Will has been drafted, you must make an appointment with the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry for the Will to be registered.  Lawyers are discouraged from involvement at this meeting.

16. What should I take to the meeting at the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry?

On the date of the appointment, you will need to bring with you the Will for signing and ID documents, for example your passport.

17. Do my appointed Executors and Guardians have to come to the appointment?

The DIFC Wills and Probate Registry does not require the presence of your Executors and Guardians at the appointment, however they do require signed witness statements from your Guardians confirming their acceptance of the appointment under your Will.

18. Can I bring a beneficiary to the appointment?

Your beneficiaries may not attend the appointment. This measure is in place, to reduce the risk of challenges to the Will, at time of probate, on grounds such as undue influence.

19. How many witnesses do I need to bring?

You will need to bring one witness who is not a beneficiary or a Guardian in the Will, to your appointment. Additionally, a registry officer of the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry will act as your second witness.

20. What happens after I have signed the Will?

After signing, the Registrar will keep the original Will and a copy will be provided to you for safe keeping.

21. What shall I do to protect my assets outside Dubai?

Although the DIFC Will covers assets held in Dubai, it will not cover assets held anywhere else in the UAE, the UK or anywhere else in the world.  If a non-Muslim person, for example, has assets in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the UK, it may well be that a separate Will in each of those jurisdictions will be needed. A Dubai Will cannot deal with UK assets and vice versa.

Further information

To find out more about Dubai Wills or our services for British expatriates in Dubai, including estimated costs, please contact Jim Sawer or a member of our Private Client team. 

Dubai Wills for British Expats and Non-Muslims – Frequently Asked Questions Insights

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