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writing wills in the UAE for expats

Wills in the UAE: What expats should know

If you are an expat living in Dubai or Abu Dhabi and want to learn more about wills in the UAE, this blog is for you. Writing a will is part of estate planning and should be a part of your own customised financial plan. Living abroad as an expat means that you will have to learn how the will writing system works in your country of residence as there may be many differences from what you already know. If you would like to learn more please read this blog regarding wills in the UAE.

Why should you write a will?

A will is a written document that outlines your instructions and preferences for the distribution of your estate (which includes your money, property, possessions, and other assets) after your death. A will can be either a simple statement or a more detailed document.

Writing a will is quite necessary if you have dependents, such as small children, children with disabilities, or elderly parents.

Your will might be as straightforward or complex as you’d like it to be. It contains your instructions for who you want to care for your minor children or elderly parents, as well as how you want your inheritance to be distributed after you pass away. In a trying moment, this makes the process of settling your estate for your loved ones much simpler and less stressful.

If you’re now living on your own, you might want to make sure that your elderly parents or even your pet receive the care they need. Having a will ensures that your preferences will be carried out without any complications. If you want to make sure that your will is legal, you should probably see a lawyer. It is subject to change at any given time.

Do you have to register a will in the UAE?

Wills do not need to be registered in the UAE because it is not required. In spite of this, it is highly recommended that expatriates living in the UAE or those who own immovable or movable property in the UAE register a will pertaining to their movable and immovable assets, including real estate, investments, and any bank accounts in the UAE. This is done to avoid the legal complications that the legal heirs may face on the death of a testator, which is the person who grants the will. 

Wills for Non-Muslim expatriates in the UAE

A Non-Muslim expat who owns movable and or immovable assets is able to register a will in favour of his or her legal heirs or whoever else he or she intends to nominate, with the concerned Court which has jurisdiction in each emirate of the United Arab Emirates or with relevant authorities in the United Arab Emirates. 

“A foreigner (non-Muslim) may leave a Will with all of his assets in the UAE to any person of his/her choice,” it says in Article 11(1) of the Abu Dhabi Personal Status Law for Non-Muslims. In addition, the Abu Dhabi Personal Status Law for Non-Muslims includes a provision in Article 13 that addresses the registration of the Will with the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department.

“A register known as the ‘Register of Wills of non-Muslims’ has been created at the Dubai Courts and at the DIFC Courts for the purpose of registering Wills of non-Muslims,” according to Article 6(a) of the Dubai Wills Law. This register was created for the purpose of registering the wills of non-Muslims.

Wills for Muslim Expatriates in the UAE

An expatriate who is a Muslim and who resides in the United Arab Emirates is permitted, in accordance with the principles of Sharia, to register a will relating to his or her movable or immovable property, investments, and bank accounts with the relevant court which has jurisdiction in the United Arab Emirates.

Are there two types of wills in the UAE?

Correct. Wills created in the United Arab Emirates can be notarized and registered in either the Dubai Courts or the Wills and Probate Registry in the DIFC (WPR). The difference in the jurisdiction is the primary distinction between the two institutions.

The Dubai Courts are the onshore heart of the United Arab Emirates’ legal system. They uphold and represent the Shari’ah jurisprudence that is used throughout the country. The Dubai Court, and the various branches it has, are responsible for handling almost all legal matters. Wills that are registered with the Dubai Courts are valid throughout the UAE.

You may be familiar with the term “financial freezone,” which refers to the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), which has the authority to apply international law rather than the law of the UAE in matters pertaining to finance. This status is a result of the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) having its own independent legal jurisdiction, complete with its very own judicial system. Wills created in the UAE and submitted to the DIFC (DIFC Wills) are only valid in Dubai and Ras al Khaimah.

For more information on a DIFC will and DIFC courts please read our blog here.

Estate planning in the UAE with Holborn

Holborn Assets is the “go-to” financial services provider in the UAE. Holborn is a holistic UK-regulated financial services provider with several international client services awards and a team of fully qualified and experienced financial advisers. Founded 20 years ago in Dubai,  we have expanded to 13 countries with over 20 offices ready to deliver top-quality services to discerning expats.

Estate planning is a part of a financial plan that many people don’t know about or have limited information on. However, if you feel that you lack the necessary knowledge to design a financial plan that would enable you to pass your property over to your loved ones when you are away, Holborn’s fully qualified advisers are here to help you. Get in touch with us today to learn more. 


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