Just out: new UAE law ends Will worries for expats

UK expats in Dubai were relieved when just yesterday the UAE Government confirmed the right of non-muslim residents to register a Will under internationally-recognised Common Law. That makes it a lot less daunting for Brits to get a Last Will and Testament in place out here in Dubai, as well as bypass any fears about the Shariah system. So let’s get a Will – and get it done! Huge steps have already been made by the UAE Government to help Western expats get Wills that protect their family with familiar laws. 2015 saw the formation of the Dubai International Finance Centre Wills & Probate Registry (DIFC WPR) which handles an average of 150 “Western-style” Wills a month. When it comes to writing a Will as an expat, the UAE Government is supportive. So go ahead and do some supporting yourself by getting a Will in place to support your family when you’re gone! It’s a pain – but, once it’s done – you can relax. And, more importantly, so can your loved ones.

How do I get a Will in the UAE?

As we covered here at Holborn Assets in some depth last month, an expat faces two choices in the UAE when it comes to registering a Will: the Dubai Courts, or the DIFC WPR. As an expat, you need to register your Will with one of the two systems – and then, if you pass away in-country, your Will be processed by your chosen system. There are pros and cons to both the Dubai Courts and the DIFC WPR when it comes to registering your Will as an expat. What makes the Dubai Courts less attractive often for expats is the need for all documents to be translated into Arabic, as well as the Shariah inheritance laws. So for Brit expats the smart money is generally on the DIFC WPR because here Shariah Law is not applied. This means that with the DIFC WPR you can guarantee that your partner inherits any shared possessions (ie. the house) in the event of your death; this “right of survivorship”, where jointly-owned assets are passed onto the surviving party, is not supported by the alternative legal system of the Dubai Courts. BUT … and it’s a big “BUT” … the DIFC WPR does NOT support assets held in any Emirate other than Dubai – whereas Wills registered with the Dubai Courts apply to all Emirates.

A breakdown of new Law 15 – making Wills easier

Law No. 15 was issued on 31st October by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai. The new ruling is designed to reassure expats that the UAE Government supports Wills being made according to non-Shariah principles. An official statement said that “the law, which is applicable to the wills and assets of non-Muslims based in Dubai, including the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), creates a clear legal framework for non-Muslims to create wills according to their wishes …” So, with Law 15, the UAE Government has effectively confirmed that Shariah Law won’t be applied to expat cases of inheritance – provided that the Will is registered in the appropriate place ie. the DIFC WPR: “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.” Says the UAE Government. Reassuringly, the UAE Government has also confirmed that “any non-Muslim wills registered at Dubai Courts or DIFC Courts prior to the law will remain valid.”

So will you or won’t you?

See how easy it is on the DIFC WPR’s website to get the ball rolling with your Last Will and Testament. The DIFC has done a great job in making the process clear for expats. But your Will is not something for expats to tackle without proper legal and financial advice. The DIFC WPR is very clear on this. Get professional help: “your DIFC Will is an extremely important document and you are strongly advised to consider taking legal advice in its preparation.” Here at Holborn Assets we see Wills as far more important than just legal formalities; your Will is what ties together your entire financial plan – so it’s really important to get it right, with experienced advice from both legal and financial sides. Your IFA is ideally placed to act in conjunction with solicitors to forge a Will for you that can hold your family together in the future. Your Will is your financial rock – and, if you get it set in place professionally whilst you still can, it will be a rock that your family can rely on when you’ve gone.

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