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Having a will in place is an extremely important step of your financial planning process. It provides certainty over your assets and is an essential part of your estate planning. Owning assets in the UAE further extenuates the importance of having a will in place, especially for expats. The DIFC Wills and Probate Registry ("WPR") is a great initiative for non-Muslims to register their will in the UAE, as it works in conjunction with the DIFC courts as well as the Dubai courts at the time of execution.

DIFC Wills and Probate Registry

The DIFC Wills and Probate Registry has been established as an official mechanism for non-Muslims to register their wills and have it enforced through the DIFC Courts.  Testators do not need to be residents in the UAE in order to register a DIFC will. Previously there was a lot of uncertainty with regards to the registration of wills of non-Muslims since Shari’a principles govern inheritance throughout the UAE. If any expatriate living in the UAE dies without having a will in place, Shari’a principles will most likely apply and family members may be forced into an heirship regime without fully understanding the consequences. The best way to ensure certainty over your assets upon death is to register a will with the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry. Although the Registry has its own complex rules and laws that would be applicable, it provides a relative freedom of disposition of assets upon death.

Process of Registering a Will with the DIFC WPR

The process of registering a will with the DIFC WPR is relatively straightforward. Testators will need to provide the required documents to their lawyer who will draft a will and make an appointment with the DIFC WPR through the online portal. At the time of appointment, the testator will be required to bring two witnesses who are not mentioned in the will as beneficiaries to witness the signing. The registration is thereafter complete upon signing before the DIFC and the testator can take the original copy of the will home as the DIFC only retains electronic copies.

A full DIFC will generally encompasses all of the testator’s assets, as well as any assets acquired in the future. It also allows for guardianship provisions in the event the testator has any minor children. However, there are certain circumstances which can invalidate the will – such as the testator getting married after registering their will. It is therefore prudent that legal advice is sought in order to ensure the validity of the will.

Types of DIFC Wills

The DIFC WPR allows for the following wills to be registered:

  • Full will: covering all moveable and immoveable assets as well as guardianship provisions
  • Property will: covers up to 5 real estate properties
  • Guardianship will: covering guardianship provisions for minors below the age of 21
  • Business owners will: covers up to 5 different companies
  • Financial assets will: covers shares in up to 10 different bank accounts

Mirror wills are also available in the event a testator wishes to register a will along with their husband or wife.

Requirements to Register a Will

Although applicants can register a will directly with the DIFC WPR, we would always recommend consulting a lawyer before doing so as the DIFC WPR does not provide any legal advice and the rules of the DIFC WPR are quite complex. The following information is generally required before a will is drafted:

  • Applicant’s nationality, religion and ID documents (only non-Muslims over the age of 21 can register a DIFC will)

  • Family tree (including any adopted children, step-children, etc.)

  • Full list of assets

  • Executor’s details and any substitute executors in case their appointment fails; the executor is in charge of distributing the assets upon the death of the testator

  • The beneficiaries, their details and their entitlements

  • Details of any guardians in the event the applicant wishes to make a guardianship order along with the will

  • List of pecuniary/specific gifts to be made to any beneficiary

The DIFC WPR has expanded its scope over the years and has quickly become a very well-established registry. It is essential for anyone who has assets in the UAE to start their succession planning by considering registering a DIFC will to further protect their assets.

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