Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Abu Dhabi’s wills registry for non-Muslim expats will strengthen legal system

Abu Dhabi’s upcoming registry of wills for non-Muslims will strengthen its legal system.
The wills registry in Abu Dhabi will help close a gap in the legal system.
The wills registry in Abu Dhabi will help close a gap in the legal system.

The introduction of a wills registry for non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi is an important step forward for our legal system. As The National reported this week, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, has issued a resolution to create a registry of wills and probate for non-Muslims in the emirate.

The new system will help close a gap in the legal system. Previously, there was no clear mechanism for the registration of wills for non-Muslims in the emirate and the only way to secure their assets was to request the application of the law of their home country, in keeping with the UAE’s personal status law. Otherwise, assets would be automatically distributed according to Sharia, which is based on a fixed share allocation system for the disbursement of assets.

The new registry will enable non-Muslims with assets in Abu Dhabi to have the option to bypass Sharia and instead allow their estates to apply the legal framework that they choose. It will also offer flexible legal options, where previously there was inflexibility, to assist non-Muslim families in the event of the death of one of the parents. This will better protect their intentions and ease a process that otherwise would be long, stressful and complicated. The growing number of non-Emirati property owners will also be able to ensure their houses are passed on to relatives without dispute.

Abu Dhabi will now be in line with Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah.In both emirates the Dubai International Financial Centre’s wills and probate registry protects the assets of non-Muslim expats by enforcing their wills after they pass away within the Dubai court system. According to the registry’s director, Sean Hird, 2,500 wills have been registered since its inception in 2015. It’s also working on an online property will to meet the increasing demands for wills governing real estate.

The new registry comes shortly after the establishment of a special court to deal with non-Muslim family law and inheritance affairs, as announced by Sheikh Mansour, which was itself a critical step forward for the legal system.

Such clarity is to be warmly welcomed, although there is still the unanswered question of how courts will treat these new wills when the first case is put before them. That, of course, is for tomorrow.

For now, expats in the emirate can see a coherent legal framework being assembled. Too often in the past, the subject of non-Muslim wills has lacked any definitive answer and that has led to conflicting advice being handed out by legal experts. This week’s flurry of activity brings that era of uncertainty to a close.

Updated: July 21, 2017 06:44 PM