February 25, 2024

For posterity, the new inheritance and wills law will strengthen the bond between Dubai and its non-Muslim expatriates. It makes it easier for these expatriates to manage probate and wills conforming to their aspirations. Both the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts and Dubai courts recognize the new law.

Because Dubai expats, who have stayed in the city for a long time, have amassed significant property acquisitions, investments, and asset portfolios, they need to administer their assets and prepare inheritance plans according to their wishes. This has been a major concern to them. With the new law, it has become easier to plan and control their wealth.

UAE legal experts have been insisting that expatriates write a will as a way to plan their estate. Expats can experience complications due to intestate emergencies, especially for non-Muslims. With the new law, they can use it as a motivation to pursue legacy solution according to their wishes.

The new law defines the beneficiaries’ obligations and liabilities; the executors’ limitations and responsibilities; the rules regarding inheritance; allocation and administration of the estate; and the procedures for appeal. The Dubai International Financial Centre Courts or the Dubai Courts will adjudicate any disputes that may arise from the non-Muslims’ probate and wills.

Families and relatives will benefit from the new law because it regulates asset and inheritance distribution. With their lifestyle, the expatriates’ acquired assets, whether movable or immovable, can now have clear guidance as to their distribution and management.

Also, the validity of a Dubai Court or Dubai International Financial Centre Court registered non-Muslim will is assured by the law. UAE supports its expatriates and recognizes their contributions. Inheritance of non-Muslim expatriates can be settled even in UAE.

Difference between inheritance system of UAE and other countries

The Sharia law serves as guide with regard to inheritance for Muslims in the UAE. For non-Muslim expatriates, their home country’s law will apply. Sharia law is adaptable, and can be developed and interpreted further because it is not codified.

At least one Dubai court judge deals with inheritance issues. UAE courts do not have juries. They do not follow any precedent system unlike in some Western countries. Yet, uncertainties abound especially with regard to inheritance issues involving real estate.

The UAE courts do not follow “right of survivorship”. This means that the properties of a dead person do not go to the surviving partner automatically. The local courts decide who will inherit the assets.

With the new Dubai International Financial Centre and Wills Probate Registry, non-Muslim expatriates can prepare their wills to ensure that their properties go to their chosen beneficiaries when they die.

Common concerns of people regarding inheritance

Expatriates are confused about the application of inheritance laws when they die. They assume that their home country’s laws will apply automatically even if they die in the UAE.

In general, Muslims who have issues regarding inheritance must follow Sharia law. Because of the new Dubai International Financial Centre Wills and Probate Registry, non-Muslim expats have the option to assign their properties to whoever they like.

Under Sharia law, properties are passed on through reserved shares or forced succession. A wife is entitled to 1/8 share of her husband’s estate if they have children. On the other hand, a husband is entitled to 1/4 of his wife’s estate if they have children. The rest of the properties will go to the family members who are still living.

Importance of a will for non-Muslim expatriates

In the UAE, expats need to draft a will because the UAE Courts will apply Sharia Law if they do not leave behind a will.

If someone dies without a will, the courts will assess the estate and use Sharia law to distribute it. They will freeze all personal assets so that all liabilities will be paid first. A wife with children can have 1/8 of his husband’s estate. Distribution will be automatic if the husband does not have a will.

The courts can freeze shared assets until they decide on the inheritance issue. For businesses, they do not allow automatic share transfers.

Common instrument used for distributing assets upon demise

Individuals often draft a will so that their assets pass on to their chosen beneficiaries upon their death. They can specify the details of distribution in a will. Also, they can include other wishes like specific gifts, estate executors, and guardians for their offspring. Aside from wills, a person can also establish a trust or a sophisticated offshore solution.

How the Dubai International Financial Centre Wills and Probate Registry helps non-Muslim expatriates

Through the new registry, non-Muslims in Dubai can pass on their properties to their chosen heirs depending on their wishes. They have the option to select the distribution method for their assets. These expatriates can have the testamentary freedom to dispose their properties through a quick administrative process. The Land Department and Dubai International Financial Centre cooperate to ensure a speedy disposition of the inheritance case.

Surely, with the new law on inheritance and wills, non-Muslims who have accumulated wealth in Dubai can ensure that their properties go to their chosen heirs. They do not need to wait for the application of their home country’s laws of inheritance. They get their wishes immediately as long as they leave behind a will.