A Will is a legal document that a person declares his intentions and specifies the method to be applied in the management and distribution of his assets after his death. These assets typically include but not limited to real estate, money, Bank accounts, investments, shares, Jewelry, vehicles and personal or household belongings.

Wills for UAE Assets

For non-Muslim expats in the UAE, their home-country laws of inheritance will not apply to their movable and/or immovable assets in the UAE, unless they have a registered Will recognized as per UAE law. This means if a person passes away without a Will, the UAE Law of Inheritance will be applied on his assets in UAE and will be distributed according to Islamic/Sharia Law principles which may have some surprising and unexpected implications that differ from the intentions of the deceased. In such an event, the implications of Sharia law may include;

  1. A bulk of your assets might go to an extended family instead of an immediate family of the deceased.
  2. Cancellation of Dependent Visas
  3. Personal assets, including bank accounts of the deceased, will be frozen until liabilities have been discharged, and then distributed by a predetermined formula
  4. Even Jointly held assets will be frozen until the issue of inheritance and succession is determined by the local courts.
  5. Life insurance claims may be counted as part of the property or may use to cover the liabilities of the deceased.

Wills for Business owners

As for Business partners, in the event of a shareholder or director’s death, Sharia law would apply and his/her shares do not pass automatically by survivorship. The ownership of shares may be transferred to extended family members which might affect the operation and profitability of the business. This would apply to both onshore and free-zone companies.

DIFC – Wills and Probate Registry (Wills Service Centre)

The DIFC Wills Service Centre is a joint initiative of the Government of Dubai and the DIFC Dispute Resolution Authority that gives non-Muslims investing and living in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah the option to distribute their assets in accordance with their registered Wills. A DIFC Will ensures that Sharia law shall not be applied in the distribution of Individual assets of a non-Muslim.

The New Law No:  15 of 2017 prescribes the legal requirements for Wills and Probate for non-Muslims; liabilities and obligations of the beneficiaries of Wills; responsibilities, and limitations of Will executors; regulations governing inheritance and the distribution and management of the estate; as well as appeal procedures. Disputes arising from Wills and Probate for non-Muslims will be adjudicated by Dubai Courts or DIFC Courts, depending on the place where the Wills are registered.

Mr. Karthikeyan is highly experienced in drafting Wills according to the expatriates’ National laws which will regulate their wishes upon death. He also specializes in providing appropriate solutions and preparing Wills that address all key issues pertaining to business Partnership and ownership. The Wills may be prepared in English and registered with the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Wills and Probate Registry. There is also an option to have it done at the Notary Public of the Dubai Courts.