Setting up a Will in Dubai

Written by Silvana Fitzpatrick

As an expat living, working, or investing in Dubai, setting up a will is a vital step to ensure that your assets and guardianship are protected and distributed according to your wishes. In case of death without a registered will, assets are divided based on the inheritance provisions set by UAE law, which may go against the personal wishes of the deceased. Therefore, it is essential to take the necessary steps to protect your legacy and secure the future of your family.

Law No. (15) of 2017 was introduced to regulate inheritance, wills, and probate for non-Muslims in Dubai. Under this law, any non-Muslim person over the age of 21, who has children below the age of 21 years, or owns assets in Dubai, is advised to make a will.

Expats can register a will at the Dubai Courts Public Notary or the DIFC Wills Service Centre and can complete the process on their own or seek assistance from legal consultancy agencies.

Upon the demise of an individual in the UAE, their bank accounts, including joint accounts, are frozen. However, with a registered will in Dubai, the activation of the bank account becomes a relatively straightforward process. To achieve this, the Succession Certificate can be obtained from the Dubai Family Court, which provides a clear indication of the beneficiaries who are entitled to inherit the deceased person's movable and immovable assets. This also encompasses end-of-service benefits and other assets that are explicitly detailed in the will of the deceased.

Setting up a will in Dubai

In addition to the distribution of assets, the will should designate guardians for the children of the deceased, providing assurance that they will be entrusted to the care of responsible individuals. The executor appointed in the will is responsible for overseeing the probate process, which includes settling any outstanding liabilities and distributing assets to the beneficiaries as outlined in the will.

It is important to note that Sharia Law will apply to Muslims regardless of whether they have a registered will or not. Therefore, it is crucial for Muslim expats to understand the Sharia Law's inheritance rules and seek legal advice to ensure that their assets are distributed according to their wishes.

Below, we offer guidance on the steps you need to follow to set up a will in Dubai:

Choosing the Type of Will

There are two types of wills in Dubai: a DIFC will, and a Dubai Courts will.

A DIFC will is based on Common Law principles and can be created in English, whereas a Dubai Courts will is based on the Civil Law system and must be written in Arabic. You can choose the type of will that best suits your needs and preferences.

Drafting the Will

You can either draft the will yourself or seek the services of a legal consultancy agency. The will must contain specific information, including your full name, date of birth, passport number, and details of your assets and beneficiaries.

Legal Translation

Upon the client's approval of the will draft, the next step involves legal translation, as all documents submitted to Dubai Courts must be translated into Arabic. This requirement ensures that all legal proceedings are conducted in a language that is universally understood and adhered to within the UAE.

It is worth noting that registering your will with the DIFC Wills Service Centre offers a unique advantage, as the entire process can be conducted in English, eliminating the need for Arabic translation. The DIFC Wills Service Centre caters exclusively to non-Muslims in Dubai and provides a convenient and streamlined process for the registration of your will.

DIFC Wills Service

Registering the Will

You can register the will either at the Dubai Courts Public Notary or the DIFC Wills Service Centre. When registering the will at the Dubai Courts, all submitted documents need to be translated to Arabic by authorised legal translating centres registered with the Courts and Ministry of Justice.

During the execution of a will, a registration with the Dubai Courts is recognized across the entirety of the country, covering assets and estates in all seven emirates.

Expats should also be aware that the registration process for wills can take up to several weeks to complete, and the cost may vary depending on the type of will and legal consultancy agency used. It is essential to plan ahead and ensure that you have sufficient time and resources to complete the registration process before any unforeseen circumstances arise.

Finally, you ought to be mindful of the tax implications of registered wills. Depending on the value of your assets, you may be subject to inheritance tax or other forms of taxation upon your passing. You should seek legal advice to understand the tax implications of your registered will and plan accordingly to minimise any potential tax liabilities.

DIFC Courts

Storing the Will

After registering the will, you need to store it in a secure location to ensure its safety. You can choose to store it with the Dubai Courts or the DIFC Wills Service Centre, or you can store it with a trusted legal consultancy agency.

Updating the Will

You must update your will regularly to reflect any changes in your assets or beneficiaries and to prevent undesired outcomes in the distribution of assets.

Costs of Registering a Will

When setting up a will in Dubai, it is essential to consider the costs involved in the registration process. The cost of registering a will in Dubai can vary depending on the type of will and service fees of the legal consultancy you decide to appoint. Generally, the cost of registering a Dubai Courts will is lower than that of a DIFC will, as the former is bilingual, and the latter is completely in English.

The cost of a will in Dubai typically includes drafting, translation, and registration of a full will. You should seek legal advice from specialised lawyers who offer drafting services in Dubai.

Registering a will in Dubai incurs a cost of approximately AED 8,000 to AED 10,000 with Dubai Courts, while a DIFC will can range from AED 15,000 to AED 20,000.

By following the steps outlined above, expats can set up a legally binding will that is effective in protecting their legacy and securing the future of their family. There are numerous lawyers in Dubai who offer will drafting services and possess the knowledge and expertise required to navigate the intricacies of the legal system.

How to draft a will in Dubai

What Happens if You Do Not Have a Will in Dubai?

In the absence of a registered will in Dubai, the UAE Law of Inheritance will determine the distribution of assets, potentially leading to undesirable outcomes for the deceased loved ones. Moreover, the guardianship of minor children may be granted to individuals other than those preferred by the deceased, causing significant emotional distress for both the children and their guardians.

It is a common misconception that only those with significant assets should create a will in Dubai.

Neglecting to create a will can lead to unfavourable outcomes, including the potential misallocation of assets and the unwanted guardianship of minors.

Even those without assets should consider drafting a will to ensure that the guardianship of their children is assigned to individuals who share their values and beliefs. A will can provide assurance and peace of mind that, in unfortunate circumstances, where your children will be well taken care of and protected.

In addition to the steps outlined above, it is worth noting that the DIFC Wills Service Centre offers a unique feature known as the "Guardianship Will." This type of will is designed specifically for parents with minor children and allows them to appoint guardians for their children in case of their untimely demise. By setting up a Guardianship Will, parents can ensure that their children's future is secure and protected by trusted individuals who share their values and beliefs.

What happens if you don't have a will in Dubai

By preparing and registering a will in Dubai, individuals can ensure that their assets are distributed to the appropriate beneficiaries and that their children are cared for by trusted guardians. Additionally, it provides a clear and legally binding roadmap for the probate process, streamlining the distribution of assets and minimising potential conflicts between beneficiaries.

The cost of setting up a will in Dubai is a small price to pay for the peace of mind and security it provides.