Why You Need a Will in the UAE – A Guide for Non-Muslim Expats

A Will is a legal document that specifies how a person’s assets will be distributed after their death. It provides peace of mind not just to you as the testator, but also to your loved ones, knowing that your legacy will be respected, and your affairs will be handled with care. In a world of uncertainty, having a Will is a definitive act of preparation and foresight, ensuring that the people and causes that matter most to you are taken care of when you are no longer able to do so yourself.

Creating a Will with the assistance of legal consultants in Dubai allows you to appoint both a temporary (someone within the UAE) and permanent guardian for your minor children, ensuring that they are taken care of according to your wishes when you pass away. Without a Will, the UAE courts may appoint a guardian for the minor children, which may not align with your wishes or cultural values. Having a Will that appoints a guardian provides peace of mind and security for both you and your children.

As a business owner residing in the UAE, having a Will is crucial to ensure that your business affairs are handled according to your wishes if you pass away. A Will allows you to specify how your business should be managed or distributed, including appointing a successor or executor to oversee the operations. Without a Will, the distribution of your business assets may be subject to UAE laws and regulations, which may not align with your intentions. Before you plan to employ legal consultants in Dubai to draft a will for your business, here are a few things you must know:

What if you already have a Will in your home country?
The enforceability of a Will from another jurisdiction in the UAE depends on a few factors, including the country where the Will was executed, the laws of that country, and the laws of the UAE.

Under the UAE’s new laws introduced by Federal Decree-Law No. 41/2022 on Civil Personal Status, non-Muslim expats can choose the law of their home country to govern the distribution of their assets if they pass away without a Will. This means that if a non-Muslim expat has a Will from their home country that is recognized as valid under that country’s laws, the UAE courts may recognize and enforce the provisions of that will.

However, the recognition and enforcement of a foreign Will by the UAE courts will depend on various factors, including the legal requirements for Wills in the foreign jurisdiction, whether the Will is considered valid under UAE law, and whether the provisions of the Will are in compliance with the public policy of the UAE. All the relevant legislation will also need to be translated into Arabic, as the courts in the UAE are only in Arabic. This process will be costly and time consuming for your loved ones and impose an unnecessary burden on them during an already difficult time.

Therefore, it is recommended that non-Muslim expats residing in the UAE create a Will that is tailored to the specific legal requirements of the UAE to ensure that their wishes are properly documented and enforceable in the UAE courts. You can know more about the same by associating with the best legal firm in Dubai.

How do you register a Will in the UAE?
Non-Muslim expats in the UAE have two options when it comes to registering a will: DIFC Wills and civil Wills.
To register a DIFC Will, the testator must complete a form and submit it to the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry together with paying the prescribed registration fee. The Will must be one of a non-Muslim individual over the age of majority. It must be witnessed by at least two witnesses of the age of majority and signed in person by the testator. The Will must be in accordance with a prescribed form, in English and in writing. There are other formalities which the Will must comply with, making it essential to contact us as your legal consultants to draft the Will and guide you through the process. Once registered, the DIFC Will is kept confidential and is only accessible to the testator (or his legal consultant authorised in writing to inspect the Will), and after the testator’s death, his executor, guardians, and beneficiaries.

To register a civil Will, the testator must draft the Will in Arabic, have it notarized, and then submit it to the local court for registration. The Will must comply with UAE law, including the appointment of an executor. Each court has a prescribed form that must be followed for the Will to be accepted. Therefore, it is important to consult with legal consultants, such as us, to assist with drafting the Will and guiding you through the registration process.
It is important to note that both DIFC Wills and civil Wills must meet the legal requirements under UAE law to be considered valid and enforceable. Hence, it is recommended that non-Muslim expats seek advice from the legal consultants in Dubai to help with the drafting and registration of their Will.

How do you know which type of Will is best for you?

A DIFC Will is drafted in English, which eliminates language barriers for non-Arabic speaking residents in the UAE. The DIFC offers various types of Wills (Different DIFC Wills) that cater to your specific needs. You can include multiple jurisdictions in your Will, allowing you to consolidate your international assets in one document. As circumstances change, you may need to make amendments to your Will. The DIFC Will Services provides an online platform for minor changes, such as updating your residential address and passport numbers. For more significant changes, a small fee applies, and the Will Service provides a simple process to follow. The most significant advantage of registering your Will with DIFC as a non-Muslim resident is that the DIFC has a dedicated section for the probate process, ensuring that the process is carried out smoothly at the time of your death. The entire process will be in English and follows common law processes, providing peace of mind to your loved ones, who will not have to face additional hardship during an already difficult time.

Non-Muslim expats can register a civil Will to ensure that their assets are distributed according to their wishes, rather than according to Sharia law. The registration fee for civil Wills differs from court to court but tends to be less than the registration fee for a DIFC Will. The Will must be drafted in Arabic or translated by a certified translator, which incurs an extra cost for non-Arabic speaking expats. A civil Will covers assets, both movable and immovable, located and held in the UAE, but it does not automatically cover assets located in other jurisdictions because laws regarding Wills and inheritance can vary significantly between jurisdictions. The probate process of a civil Will depends on the jurisdiction where the Will is registered. When a civil Will is registered with a local court in the UAE, the probate process is handled by that relevant court. However, the entire process will be in Arabic, and this may impose a language barrier on the testator’s loved ones, who may need to appoint an Arabic-speaking legal consultant to assist with the process. It is important to note that this process can be lengthy and costly

When choosing which Will is best suited for your specific needs, there are various factors to consider. We advise you to make an appointment with us as your legal consultants, so we can explain the process and assist you in making the best decision for your situation.

Having a Will in place within the UAE is of utmost importance to non-Muslim residents. Do not delay in having your Will drafted and registered, as tomorrow is never guaranteed. Get in contact with Lawgical Group, the best legal firm in Dubai, today.

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