Brief Overview of Wills in UAE
By on September 8, 2022
POSTED IN Family Estates & Trust Planning,
The concept of a Will has a long history, dating back to ancient civilizations. The ancient Egyptians and Romans both had systems in place for individuals to leave instructions for the disposition of their property after death. Catholic Church played a significant role in the distribution of a person’s assets after their death, and the concept of a Will emerged as a way for individuals to have more control over the disposition of their property.
A Will is a legal document that outlines how a person’s assets and property will be distributed after their demise. It can also appoint a guardian for minor children and name an executor to manage the distribution of the estate. It is important to have a Will in place because it allows a person to have control over what happens to their assets and dependents after they are gone. Without a Will, state laws will determine the distribution of a person’s assets and property, which may not align with their wishes. It is important to review and update a Will regularly to ensure that it accurately reflects a person’s current circumstances and wishes.
Unlike other countries, United Arab Emirates is not a member to Hague Convention and has its own set of rules and regulations to govern the procedure for the execution of Wills. The outline of this note is to have an understanding about Wills and their execution in UAE.
Law & Wills
UAE has a diverse demographic and welcomes people from all parts of the world. But those planning to move to the country might have confusion regarding Sharia laws in the UAE for expats. The intersection of Sharia laws and general rules can best be seen in the UAE family laws. Sharia is the primary legal jurisdiction on all family-related issues as per the constitution. However, at the same time, personal law status also covers marriage, succession and divorce.
Inheritance matters in the UAE are governed principally by two Federal Laws: The Personal Affairs Law of No.28 of 2005 which allows non-Muslim expats living in the UAE to opt to use the law of their own countries to distribute their assets are in the UAE. In other words, a non-Muslim expat can apply for probate in the home country upon the demise of a family member, which will allow them to distribute the UAE assets in the manner that the deceased person would have wished. The second law is UAE civil code, which governs the distribution of property of an expatriate, the movable property can be distributed according to law of the land and immovable assets are distributed according to UAE laws as per Article 17 of the Code.
Law in case of Intestate
An intestate, also known as dying without a Will, occurs when a person dies without having made a valid Will or trust. When this happens, the person’s assets and property will be distributed according to the laws of the state in which they lived, rather than according to their own wishes. This can result in their assets being distributed in a way that does not align with their desires or the needs of their family.
An individual having assets in UAE who has not drafted a Will, the allocation of assets will be subjected to Sharia Law automatically. Federal Law No. 5 of 1985, concerning civil transactions and Federal Law No. 28 of 2005, also known as the Personal Status Law of the United Arab Emirates, sets out the rules for the distribution of a person’s assets in case, if any individual dies intestate in the UAE. The probate process in Intestate cases can be more complicated and time-consuming, and may result in disputes among the heirs.
Therefore, it is very important and crucial to draft a Will for an appropriate allocation of an individual’s assets and properties.
Execution of International and Local Wills in UAE
In UAE, the Dubai Court has jurisdiction over the probate of Wills of Muslim or non-Muslim expats in the UAE. There are two types of Wills that can be executed in Dubai Courts, International or foreign Wills and Local Wills. Local Wills are executed by individuals who are citizens or residents of UAE and have their assets in UAE.
International or foreign Wills are executed by individuals who are not citizens or residents of UAE but have assets in UAE. To be recognized as valid and enforceable Will in the UAE, where they are being probated, international Wills must meet the requirements for probate in that jurisdiction.
1. Determining jurisdiction
2. Filing the Will for probate
3. Appointing an executor
4. Administering the estate
Non-Muslim individuals who execute foreign Wills in UAE may have their Wills probated in the DIFC, provided that the Will meets certain requirements. The Will must be executed in accordance with the laws of the individual’s home country and must be recognized as valid in that country. The Will must also be written in English or translated into English and must be signed by two witnesses.
DUBAI COURT & DIFC
In Dubai, the Dubai Court and the Dubai International Financial Centre (‘DIFC’) have jurisdiction over the probate of Wills.
DIFC is a free zone in Dubai that is home to many financial institutions and companies, and it has its own legal framework that is based on common law.
The Dubai Court has jurisdiction over the probate of wills of both Muslim and non-Muslim expats while the DIFC has jurisdiction over the probate of Wills of only non-Muslim expats and also of non-Muslim individuals who are not a resident of UAE but have assets in UAE.
Here is a comparison of the jurisdiction of Wills in Dubai courts and the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) courts:
|Geographical area covered||Dubai||Dubai and Ras-Al-Khaimah1|
|Type of law applied||Sharia Law||Common Law|
|Language of Proceedings||Arabic||English|
|Access to court(for non-residents)||Limited||Easy|
|Probate Process(process of proving authenticity of a Will )||Lengthy||Quick|
In DIFC, the Wills service and the registry together provide a system ensuring that a person’s UAE assets will be distributed in accordance with the terms of their registered Wills. They are governed by <em><strong>Dubai Law No. 15 of 2017</strong><em> and a set of detailed rules which establishes a system that combines operational speed, efficiency and cost effectiveness with the certainty of judicial enforcement. Wills are governed by the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry (WPR), which is responsible for the registration, administration, and enforcement of Wills. The WPR has its own set of rules and procedures for the probate of Wills, which are set out in the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry Regulations (WPR Regulations).