For expatriates in the UAE, the laws and procedures related to wills can be daunting and unclear. The country’s inheritance laws are based on Sharia, which prescribes a fixed share allocation of assets. Previously, if non-Muslims preferred to circumvent this allocation, they had to request the law of their home country be applied in accordance with the UAE’s personal status law.
Now non-Muslims can draw up and register wills for their assets in the UAE that follow common law. This was made possible with developments such as the establishment of the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry (now called the DIFC Wills Service Centre) in 2015 and the Non-Muslim Wills & Probates Office at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) in 2017.
But the path is still not clear-cut. The cost to draft a will varies between Dh1,200 and Dh6,000, depending on whether it is online or with a professional legal firm. The cost to notarise or register a will starts from as little as Dh950 at the ADJD to as much as Dh15,000 at DIFC. There are different types of wills, too, from guardianship wills to full wills.
Figuring out which is suitable for your needs requites a careful comparison of the options. The one thing you should not do, say legal experts, is nothing.
“The practical process of trying to uphold a foreign will in respect of local assets is where the issues arise,” says Tasleem Sayani, a partner at James Berry & Associates in Dubai, who specialises in wills and inheritance. “It’s quite a lengthy process in the local courts, it can be quite expensive and, of course, whilst that process is being undertaken, the assets are generally frozen, which may cause financial hardship to the surviving family.
“Now that we have local alternatives, those are the advisable options to consider for clients who want to make sure their assets are going to pass in accordance with their wishes."
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