Dubai launches Wills and probate registry

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) launched a Wills and Probate Registry based on common law. The Registry aims at simplifying the distribution of assets owned by non-Muslims’ in Dubai upon their decease. The Registry was initiated in order to improve the investment environment in Dubai and address the cultural diversity of people who own assets in the UAE.

Before launching the registry, the distribution of UAE-based assets was governed by the principles of Sharia law. Therefore, the transferring of non-Muslims’ assets based in Dubai, such as monies held in bank accounts, shares, and real estate, resulted either in the application of the laws of non-Muslim’s country of domicile or complex, lengthy, and costly legal procedures in Dubai. Due to such legal complexities, numerous Dubai expatriates decided to move their assets to overseas jurisdictions.

The Registry allows eligible individuals (i.e., residents and non-residents non-Muslims who own assets in Dubai and are older than 21 years) to assure legal certainty of their inheritance by registering their wills. Such wills are created on the basis of internationally recognized common law testamentary freedom principles, which allow testators to freely dispose their properties upon death.

The signed “will” will be turned into a digital document and stored in the secured confidential electronic registry for 120 years from testator’s date of birth.


Execution of a will

The procedure upon the decease of a testator is carried as follows:

  1. The Registry will publish information about the will, including, but not limited to,(i) the name and address of the deceased, (ii) the executor(s) and the guardian(s) of the will, and (iii) a list of beneficiaries.
  2. Interested persons will be provided with a possibility to search the will data for establishing if they are mentioned in the will as beneficiaries.
  3. Executors identified in the will can apply for a grant of probate in a DIFC Court.
  4. DIFC Court also deals with all applications, projections, and claims to the probate process.
  5. In certain cases, DIFC wills can be varied or nullified in accordance with succession laws of other jurisdictions.
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