Inheritance Provisions for non-Muslims in Dubai

The Wills and Probate Registry (DIFC WPR) is a public entity of the Dubai Government and an initiative established under the jurisdiction of the DIFC Courts. Heralded by the Governor of the DIFC as being “a first for the MENA region,” the DIFC WPR is the first estate planning tool in the middle east that allows all non-Muslims owning assets in Dubai to register DIFC compliant wills which ensure full testamentary freedom.

Andrew Lyons, a Senior Associate with Davidson & Co and registered Wills Draftsmen with the DIFC WPR has also been recognised for his role as part of a working group of Dubai based legal practitioners engaged to review and provide input in the draft rules governing the DIFC WPR during the build up to its launch. This has given Davidson & Co a unique insight into the rules and the procedures governing the DIFC Wills.

Previously, the only options for will registration which was available to non-muslims with assets in Dubai was to register a foreign law Will via the Notary Public and thus, subject to the jurisdiction of the Dubai Courts. However, this process is widely considered to be fraught with inconsistency resulting from perceived ambiguity which often resulted in the application of the forced heirship provisions of the Sharia Law thus compromising ones testamentary freedoms. This in turn, saw many faced with long, drawn out court procedures which are often lengthy and costly.

Now, and in accordance with the DIFC WPR regulations, individuals owning any assets or property in the Emirate of Dubai are eligible to register English language Wills within the DIFC’s internationally recognised common law principles. This provides legal certainty as to the inheritance of assets upon their death.

Other unique features of the DIFC WPR include:

  • Guardianship provisions, which allow individuals to specify who will be authorised to have guardianship of their children in the event that both parents are no longer able to do so; and
  • Dubai Land Department (DLD) ties, through which the DIFC are able to notify the DLD of any properties that are the subject of a DIFC Will. This informs the DLD that the transfer of such properties upon death must be subject to the DIFC Will associated with it.
  • subsequent amendments to the Will at little cost.

Testators have the option of registering four types of Wills:

  1. A Single Will, competent to include any assets located in Dubai, inclusive of guardianship provisions;
  2. Mirror Wills, where a husband and wife register two single Wills that are virtually identical;
  3. A Property Will, which is restricted only to dealing with five properties located in Dubai; and
  4. A Guardianship Will, restricted only to dealing with guardianship provisions for minor children.

In accordance with the Rules, a DIFC Will must be drafted either by the testator themselves, or by a registered Will’s Draftsmen such as Davidson & Co’s Andrew Lyons.

For further information or a free consultation on the above, please do not hesitate to contact us.