Only a little over 1% of expats living in the UAE have registered a Will that can be enforced in the region. Not to mention, many of the aforementioned have invested heavily in property, accumulated significant savings and wealth and set up successful businesses since moving to Dubai (DIFC Wills).
It is alarming to consider that such a large percentage of expats, more than 98%, have not yet taken active measures to safeguard their assets, settle inheritances and protect future generations. Even more daunting to realize that one’s entire life’s work could end up in the wrong hands. The mitigation of risk, and precautionary as opposed to reactionary mentality is something any successful business person or investor should keep in mind so if you haven’t already, there is no better time to set up a Will than now and here is why…
What is a Will?
A Will is a legal document that outlines how your assets will be distributed upon the unfortunate instance of your deceasement. Wills can include a wide variety of belongings and assets ranging from money, jewellery and vehicles to real estate and business ownership. It is important to note that there are several different kinds of Wills for different purposes. A guardianship Will for example, refers not to assets or belongings, rather to the custody and guardianship of an individual (normally children). A Will must involve at its core, the explicit names and details of the beneficiaries (often family members), the desired distribution of ones assets and belongings and it should be signed, dated and witnessed accordingly (Your POA Dubai).
Why is a having a Will important?
There are some obvious and more discreet reasons why someone may consider devising a Will. For one, having a Will mitigates the risk of losing ones’ assets and belongings, or having them end up in the wrong hands. Wills are also important however, for things such as succession planning and the safeguarding of future generations, spouses or children and act as a form of insurance for the aforementioned, in the case of any misfortune. It is especially important for non-Muslims in the region to consider setting up Wills, as the existing legislation regarding inheritance and succession can be quite unclear. In the event that the deceased does not have a registered and locally recognized Will set in place (in this case, we are referring primarily to Wills under the DIFC jurisdiction – see below), they are subject to the testimony of the local courts, which is often carried out in accordance with Sharia law. This is quite an important consideration, especially for non-Muslims, as Sharia law can differ greatly than the laws in the deceased person’s home country and might lead to some unwanted surprises.
DIFC Wills Service Centre
There have been some significant and key changes involving inheritance, Wills and succession matters in the UAE in the last number of years. In May 2015, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) introduced a much-anticipated Wills Registry. The DIFC Wills Service Centre (previously known as DIFC Wills & Probate Registry) was a groundbreaking move and was the first entity to effectively setup a new set of rules and regulations; whereby common law can be used to determine the proceedings for non-Muslims living in Dubai.
Thanks to this, a non-Muslim can now legally decide how their assets are to be distributed if he/she dies; which is the equivalent of complete testimony freedom to distribute of their assets as they see fit. The DIFC Wills Service Centre is also available to non-residents, a big plus for expats who aren’t necessarily permanently based in the UAE, but still have assets tied up in the region (which is the case for many of our clients). The Wills Service Centre works within the DIFC Courts and will be enforceable in Dubai without the need to apply for the same via the Dubai Courts. The Non-Muslim Wills & Probates Office set up at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) in 2017, was also put in place to the same effect of helping non-Muslims safeguard their assets across the UAE (The National).
New Developments at the DIFC Wills Service Centre
Since its inception, the DIFC Wills Service Centre has been working arduously to ensure that non-Muslims’ assets are properly safeguarded according to this aforementioned principles. Over the last couple of years they have made several significant advances and more recently have announced some important new developments that will come into play over the course of 2019 and beyond:
- DIFC Wills are now available across all Emirates of the UAE and are no longer limited to just Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah.
- (*Nb Guardianship Wills are the only exception to this rule as they are still only officially recognized in Dubai)
- DIFC Wills can now cover assets outside of the UAE.
- In this case however it is best to seek legal advice as the way such matters are enforced tend to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
- In the event that a Will has already been registered, it is possible to extend the Will’s coverage to overseas assets. The Wills Service Centre is currently offering this service at no additional cost – but only until 29th August 2019.
- Two witnesses are now required officially required in order for the Will to be considered valid and enforceable
- Clients can request and obtain a hard copy of the Will form the Wills Service Centre, which was not previously not permitted.
- For those who already have registered Wills, they can request a hard copy until 31st December 2019, after which all Wills will be digitalized.
Interested in finding out how you can set up a Will today? Don’t hesitate and contact us now at [email protected] or call +971 4 338 3032.