Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 July 2019

Prepare for the worst: how to register a will at DIFC Courts

Without a recognised will a non-Muslim's assets can be divided according to Sharia law

Registering a will with the DIFC Courts ensures an expatriate's assets are distributed in accordance with their wishes. Getty Images
Registering a will with the DIFC Courts ensures an expatriate's assets are distributed in accordance with their wishes. Getty Images

When it comes to financial planning, it can often be tempting to focus solely on short-term objectives. However, it is important to take long-term realities into consideration and nothing is more important than your loved ones, which is why it is so vital your affairs are in order to ensure they are taken care of.

Without a recognised and enforceable will, a person’s assets will be divided according to the UAE’s sharia-based law, whether or not they are Muslim. Property is distributed among family members according to a pre-determined formula.

With almost 8 million expatriates living in the UAE, the Government of Dubai and the DIFC Courts recognised the need for an innovative legal solution for non-Muslims that provides both peace of mind for residents, as well as enhances Dubai’s attractiveness as a destination for expatriate talent and investment. To that end, the DIFC Courts launched a wills service, giving non-Muslims investing and living in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah the option to secure their assets and family’s future through a common law will.

As the first jurisdiction in the Mena region to offer this service, establishing a will with the DIFC Courts ensures your assets will be distributed in accordance with your wishes, providing certainty for you and your family.

To register a will, the requirements are that:

• You are not Muslim and have never been a Muslim

• You are over 21

• You own assets in Dubai and/or Ras Al Khaimah and/or have minor children residing with you in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah.

Choosing the right will for you

Eligible individuals have the option to register different types of wills depending on the assets they wish to cover. To help you decide, consider decisions such as who the beneficiaries of your assets would be and how you would like them distributed in the event of your death. The five types of DIFC Wills that can be registered are:

• Guardianship will: the ability to appoint guardians, both interim and permanent, allows you to put in the necessary arrangements for the care of your children should you and/or your partner pass away.

• Property will: this is specific to real estate and can encompass up to five properties (or a share in up to five real estate properties). This will can also be utilised by investors purchasing property in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, without actually being a resident.

• Business owners will: this is specific to free zone and UAE onshore company shares (including RAKICC registered companies). It can encompass up to five separate shareholdings in any free zone or UAE onshore company situated in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah.

• Financial assets will: this is specific to bank and brokerage accounts. It can encompass up to 10 separate accounts or a share in up to 10 separate accounts that are registered in your sole name or joint name.

• The full will: this encompasses both assets and guardianship provisions, covering both the wellbeing of your children as well as your financial assets. If you register a full will and start a family at a later date, it can also be modified to include the required guardianship provisions.

Preparing the will

Once you have decided which will you need, consider taking legal advice in its preparation. Certain minimum requirements must be met for a will to be registerable and if these are not in place, it would be unenforceable. To find a suitable lawyer, the Wills Service publishes a list of legal practitioners that have met certain minimum standards in relation to their knowledge of the rules and the drafting of DIFC wills.

Registration process

You can make an appointment online or via the mobile app to register and pay the booking fee. When attending your appointment, you need to bring a witness, your unsigned draft will, Emirates ID, passport and proof of payment.

There is also an option to use a Virtual Registry, which allows those living overseas to create and register a DIFC will. Investors and former residents can access it from anywhere in the world and be connected, via video link, to a compliance officer sitting in Dubai.

Once your will is completed and registered, it is stored as an encrypted file for 120 years from your date of birth in the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry and can be updated for a nominal fee should you wish to make amendments.

Since the service began in 2015, the DIFC Courts have registered over 4,000 wills, with 87 lawyers representing more than 80 law firms, based in the UAE and overseas, registered as Wills Draftsmen.

Nour Hineidi is the deputy registrar, DIFC Courts

Updated: April 17, 2019 06:43 AM

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