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How To Register Wills for Non-Muslims in DIFC and Ras Al Khaimah?


A novel approach to meeting the asset protection requirements of foreign investors and expatriate residents was introduced in Dubai in 2016. The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is the first civil law-based jurisdiction in the Middle East to allow non-Muslims to draft and register wills in accordance with internationally accepted Common Law principles.

There are three separate organizations inside the DIFC that work together to encourage and assist commercial expansion:

First, the Dubai International Financial Centre Authority (DIFCA) is in charge of the monetary hub’s overall planning, management, and upkeep.

The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) is the DIFC’s independent central regulator, responsible for overseeing the licensing and operations of all DIFC-based financial and non-financial companies.

Third, the DIFC has its own independent judicial administration and enforcement agency called the Dispute Resolution Authority (DRA). The DIFC Courts, the DIFC Wills Service (which offers administrative support to the DIFC Courts Wills Registry for Non-Muslims), and the DIFC Arbitration Centre are all components of the DRA.

Unlike the forced heirship system of UAE law influenced by Islamic Sharia regulations, the DIFC Wills Service (WS) is the first of its kind in the Middle East, providing a simple opt-in mechanism for non-Muslim expatriates to ensure that their assets in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah will be transferred to their chosen beneficiaries according to their wishes.

Non-Muslim expatriates in Dubai who wish to register a will with a system that is familiar, transparent, and allows them to dispose of their property upon death in accordance with the laws of their home country can do so through the DIFC WS, which is written in English. After death, the DIFC Courts will confirm the will and forward it to the Dubai Courts for execution, streamlining the procedure.

Keep in mind that the DIFC WS only applies to property in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah. However, with a simple structure in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah, such as a wholly-owned offshore or free zone corporation, the testator’s assets can be protected no matter where they are located. Many European and non-Muslim countries, such as France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and Japan, also have forced heirship laws because they are founded on civil law rather than common law.

The registration of a will is recommended for non-Muslims over the age of 21 who own property in Dubai and/or Ras Al Khaimah. This is especially important for parents in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah who may need a guardianship provision in their will to select guardians for their minor children in the event of their death.

There are two key phases to the process of registering a will. To begin, a legal professional who is registered with the DIFC Wills Service must draft the will. At the DIFC Wills Service Centre, where the document is reviewed, the testator and any other key individuals named in the will present their personal information and any relevant papers for review.

The testator’s personal details (confirmed by a copy of their passport), family tree, declaration of religion, mental capacity, details of any previous wills concerning Dubai/Ras Al Khaimah assets, details of real estate properties, bank accounts, and other assets, and details of any other jurisdictions in which the testator may own property are all necessary for the Wills Draftsman to draft the will.

In addition to naming beneficiaries, the testator must name an executor to manage the estate and disperse the assets according to the terms of the will. The testator has the option of naming one or more executors and indicating whether or not they will work together.

After a will is Changes or updates can be submitted and approved by the DIFC WS. Changes to a will may be necessary in the event of a testator’s death, the birth or adoption of a child, a substantial change in the testator’s financial status affecting assets in Dubai/Ras Al Khaimah, a change in the laws of the testator’s home country affecting assets, the death or incapacity of a named executor or trustee, or a change in the assets themselves.

The DIFC Wills Service requires payment of administrative fees in addition to the registration price. Registration costs might range from free to several hundred dollars, depending on the situation. One DIFC will costs AED 10,000 (about USD 2,720) plus 5% VAT when presented to a registry officer, whereas the filing of two identical DIFC wills by spouses costs AED 15,000 (approximately USD 4,080) plus 5% VAT.

If you need specialized advice or direction on the registration process or the preparation of a will, it is highly recommended that you speak with a skilled legal professional registered with the DIFC Wills Service.

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