Wills and Succession Planning for British Expats in Dubai

Uniquely placed to advise British expats living and working in Dubai on succession and estate planning for Dubai and UK based assets

Many of our clients have assets in multiple jurisdictions and complex business structures, high value real estate or other assets.  This necessitates careful and coordinated estate planning and advice. 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.

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and the Wills and Probate Registry

The DIFC established a Wills and Probate Registry (WPR) 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 courts.

The key requirements are that:

  • The individual is not a Muslim;
  • The individual is over 21 years if age;
  • The Will only cover assets situated in Dubai; and
  • The Will is executed in accordance with DIFC requirements.  

The DIFC rules broadly follow UK law and practice and create legal certainty for the inheritance of an individual’s assets after death and the appointment of Guardians for their children. This not only allows individuals to have testamentary freedom to dispose of their assets as they wish, it also provides peace of mind that an individual’s estate will be distributed according to their wishes.

Upon the testator's death, the Executors will apply to the DIFC WPR for a grant of probate. As the grant is issued by the DIFC court, it will be directly enforceable in Dubai without the uncertainty and need to go through the Dubai courts. The new DIFC WPR is a great option for non-Muslim expats to ensure their Dubai property passes to their chosen heirs as per their wishes and therefore avoids the application of Sharia forced heirship provisions. Since its launch in May 2015, almost 2,000 Wills have been registered by the end of 2016 and 20% of those are from British expats.

Process and steps to register a DIFC Will

  • Ascertain whether a DIFC Will is needed and how it should be drawn up
  • Once the Will has been finalised, attend appointment with the WPR to go through the Will. At this meeting, you will need to bring the Will for signing and ID documents
  • The WPR Registrar will go through and read out the Will to you to ensure you understand its contents
  • After signing the Will, the Registrar will keep the original Will and a copy will be provided to you
  • While the process is relatively straight-forward, your Will represents a valuable and important legal document and it is advisable to seek licensed legal advice to assist in the drafting of your Will and to guide you through the process.

What a DIFC Will won’t cover

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.

Without a UK Will, a British expat could face their UK-situated assets being distributed in accordance with UK intestacy rules rather than their intended wishes. It is therefore imperative to take advice and consider having separate Wills in place to deal with UK assets and Dubai assets as a UK Will cannot deal with Dubai assets and vice versa.

Our services for British expatriates in Dubai

As English lawyers, our Private Client team can also advise in relation to your UK assets and ensure that assets located in the UK are dealt with and dovetail appropriately with your Dubai Will or other Wills you may have in other jurisdictions.

We are also able to offer a wider support to British expats living in Dubai and the UAE, including providing advice on family law, e.g. prenuptial agreements, divorce and children proceedings, and immigration law issues among others. A number of partners at Kingsley Napley frequently travel to Dubai to support clients and meet with experts and professional advisors. 

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. 

Please also see our frequently asked questions.

Wills and Succession Planning for British Expats in Dubai Insights

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