23 April 2015

Dubai's new registry for non-Muslim wills to be launched on 30 April

Paul Hewitt
Partner | UK

A new succession regime for non-Muslim owners of assets in Dubai has received official approval and will launch on 30 April.

Historically, Dubai's courts have automatically imposed Shari'a rules of succession on all estates, including where the deceased was non-Muslim. This has led to uncertainty and a perceived uneven treatment of expatriate wills, which has traditionally deterred many non-Muslims from choosing to become domiciled in Dubai. Foreign residents have instead preferred to transfer their funds out of Dubai, holding cash offshore and owning property through a foreign company.

In recognition of this issue, the Dubai authorities have just confirmed new rules to allow non-Muslims to register a will leaving their Dubai assets to their chosen heirs under internationally recognised common-law principles, without regard for Shari'a custom; the first jurisdiction in the region to do so. Among other things, this will allow expatriate parents freedom to nominate guardians of their minor children, and to leave property that is jointly owned to their spouse or civil partner by survivorship, both concepts prohibited under Shari'a law.

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has set up a Wills and Probate Registry which is taking appointments for registering English-language wills for non-Muslim expatriates from 3 May. It will work with the DIFC courts to produce grants and court orders for the distribution of assets and guardianship of dependents. Such grants will be directly enforceable in Dubai without the need to go through the Dubai courts, which will remove much of the ambiguity as to how locally held assets are distributed.

Overall, the move will greatly simplify the process of leaving a will for an expatriate living in Dubai.

It may just make legacies from expatriates in Dubai a little easier to encourage…

Further information is available directly from the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry: difcprobate.ae/

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