What do you need to know about Will in the UAE?

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A Will is a legal document that enables you to put your wishes related to your property and wealth distribution after your death and also entitles your wishes regarding the care of your children. If a person dies without a will, their wishes cannot be legally fulfilled. Moreover, their legal heirs are forced to spend a lot of time, energy and money to settle the property distribution and other legal obligations.

For financial planning purposes of legal heirs, Will is a mandatory assignment that protects the property estates. According to the instructions given in the Will Deed, the property gets systematically transferred to your loved ones in case of your demise. 

The person writing a Will has to sign the document. The person signing the Will is called Signatory. Writing a Will makes sure that the assets are distributed, shares or any valuable items are distributed according to the wish of the Signatory. It gives peace of mind to the Signatory as the property is allocated according to his wish. A Will legally protects the estates and also takes care of the minor children in case of any unforeseen events.

Here in this article, we present you the importance of Will in the UAE, types of Wills, Various options available in Will, Things to include in the Will and Things not to include in the Will.

Understanding the Will in the UAE
Will for Expats in the UAE
What are the Types of Wills in the UAE?
Various Options of Wills available in the UAE
Things you must include in a Will in the UAE
Things you must avoid in the Will in the UAE

Will for Expats in the UAE  

The UAE Law of Inheritance is applied if you do not have a Will in the UAE. After your demise the assets on your name and the guardianship of your minor children will also be affected. There are certain legal regulations applicable to the assets and estates in the UAE for the expats.

  • In the absence of a Will, the guardianship of the children who are below the age of 21 years is determined by the court according to the UAE law.
  • Sharia law is applied by default if the signatory does not have a Will. The property estates are distributed according to the Sharia Law in the UAE.
  • A wife can be appointed as a guardian to minor children if the Will is registered.
  • If you have a Will you can ensure the safety and security of your financial assets, wealth and money in your bank accounts.
  • In the event of unforeseen circumstances such as the death of an individual, if there is no Will, banks accounts get frozen both single and joint accounts. In these situations, a registered Will could help your spouse to have control over your bank account.
  • Dependent Visas get canceled and within one month you have to leave the country to your home country. 
  • If you do not have Will, after your death, custody of your minor children may go to someone or the local government may intervene according to the situation.
  • If you have any liabilities, your Life Insurance claims will go into covering them. 
  • If you do not have Will, upon the death bulk of your estates may go to your extended family according to Sharia Law.

What are the Types of Wills in the UAE?  

The different types of Wills in the UAE are as follows:

  1. Wills for Non Muslims
  2. Wills for Muslims
  3. Guardianship Letter

1.Wills for Non Muslims

In the event of death if a non-muslim has no Will registered then the property would be subjected to Sharia Law. The assets would be distributed according to the Sharia law, assets will not be aligned with the wishes of the signatory. A Will protects the estates and it is essential for appointing guardians for children.

The signatory can choose DIFC Registered Will or a Standard Will.

If you are a non-Muslim expat in the UAE and you have registered your will in your home country for your assets. The laws of inheritance of your home country will not be applicable to your movable or immovable assets in the UAE. You have to get your Will registered as per the UAE law and only then it has legal effect.

UAE follows Shariah Law for property assets distribution. Non-muslim are having an option to choose to opt-out of the application of Sharia Law for their property distribution in the UAE.

2. Wills for Muslim

The Shariah Law principles will apply automatically for the Muslims in the UAE for the inheritance and the distribution of the property in the UAE. The person who wants to write a will can select Standard Shariah Compliant Will or UAE Muslim Will along with Letter of Consent. 

3. Guardian Letters

These letters are private declarations which are intended to serve interim documents related to guardianship of minor children.

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Various Options of Wills available in the UAE  

The following are the various options of Wills available in the UAE:

  1. Notary Public Will
  2. DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre ) Will

1. Notary Public Will

Notary Public Wills are registered with the Notary public in Dubai, they are written in English and Arabic languages. Notary will cover all Emirates in the UAE. Below are few Notary Public and Authentication units

  • Judicial Department Abu Dhabi: Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street- Al Rowdah – next to Zayed Sports City
  • Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce & Industry – Notary Public: Corniche Street – Al Hosn Area- Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry Building
  • Al Jazira Sports and Cultural Club – Notary Public: Sultan bin Zayed the 1st  Street – Al Jazira Sports and Cultural Club Building – next to Abu Dhabi Police GHQ
  • Injazat Center- Notary Public: Marina Mall, Deerfields Mall, Al Meshrif Mall

2. DIFC Will

A non-Muslim can register their Will with DIFC Will under DIFC Will Service Centre. Under DIFC Will and Probate registry, there are various Wills available. The Wills which are registered under DIFC courts now cover investors and residents across the UAE. Expats who have assets in their home country can register their Will in their home country. Expats have to register Will in the UAE country if they are holding any assets in the UAE. There are different types of Wills registered under the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry. They are as follows:

  1. Full Will
  2. Guardianship Will
  3. Property Will
  4. Free zone Company Will
  5. Financial Assets Will

1. Full Will– This Will covers the distribution of the individual’s assets and appointment of the Guardians of minor children.

2. Guardian Will- This Will covers the appointment of guardians related to the signatory’s minor children.

3. Property Will- This Will covers upto 5 real estate properties only.

4. Free zone Company Will- Free Zone Company will cover 5 shareholdings in Freezone or RAK International Corporate Centre Companies only.

5. Financial Assets Will- This Will covers upto 10 bank or brokerage accounts registered at branch.

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Things you must include in a Will in the UAE  

You should keep the following things in mind before you review your will written by your lawyer on behalf of you.

  1. Beneficiaries
  2. Executors
  3. Guardians

1. Beneficiaries- A Beneficiary is a person who enjoys the benefits of your assets transferred. Beneficiaries will receive assets after payment of liabilities and funeral expenses. There can be a single beneficiary or multiple beneficiaries. 

Generally, for a married individual, a person appoints his/her spouse as beneficiary of the assets in the UAE. If the spouse is not alive then the children are appointed as the beneficiaries. Alternative beneficiaries are selected by the signatory depending on family situations. It depends on the surviving beneficiaries such as grandchildren, siblings, parents.

For any unmarried signatory, the beneficiary can be chosen according to the personal interest. 

2. Executors-A person who enforces the Will after the death of the Signatory is called Executor. The court issues an order and the executor pays the liabilities and distributes the assets according to the will of the Signatory. 

For married individuals, a spouse can appoint a surviving spouse as executor. Suppose both the partners pass away together, then two alternate executors appointed will work accordingly but they must be over 21 years of age. For any unmarried signatory, the executors can be chosen according to the personal interest. 

3. Guardians-If you have married and have children, you must appoint your spouse as guardian for your children below 21 years of age. Suppose both the partners pass away together, then two alternate guardians appointed will work accordingly but they must be over 21 years of age. These alternative guardians should be close family members such as siblings/parents. If a guardian is from outside the UAE, then you must appoint a temporary guardian in UAE to take care of the minor children until the permanent guardian arrives in the UAE to take care of the minor children. 

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Things you must avoid in the Will in the UAE  

The most common mistakes that you must avoid in the Will that is prepared for registration in the UAE.

  1. Do not use ambiguous language
  2. Not Choosing executors wisely
  3. Not opting out of Sharia law
  4. Not choosing your guardians wisely
  5. Do not forget to register your Will

1. Do not use ambiguous language

The use of unclear language is the most critical mistake. If your Will cannot be understood due to ambiguous language then the court could reject your Will or apply its own interpretation because of unclear language. Since you will not be alive to explain your intentions it is best advised to clearly write down what you want and how much you want to allocate your property towards your legal heirs. The language in the Will should be clear and unambiguous.

2. Not Choosing your Executors wisely

To carry out the process of probate smoothly after your death, the appointment of the right executors is very important. Choose your executors wisely so that they probate the process on time. If you are married, your spouse will be executor and also choose two alternative executors to make sure that Will is probated to family members on time. 

3. Not Opting out of Sharia Law

If you are a non-Muslim, the UAE law provides you the option to opt out of Sharia law to distribute your assets. You should write in a clear language that you do not want Sharia Law applied to your estate and guardianship of minor children. If you do not opt out of Sharia Law, then the Will may be deemed unclear of your instructions. 

4. Choose your guardians wisely

The most delicate issue is to appoint a guardian in a Will for Expats in the UAE. The person whom you choose should provide the benefit to the minor children. If you do not choose the right person, your minor children will get affected. Consider appointing two alternate permanent guardians who will take care of your minor children. 

5. Do not forget to register your Will

The Courts in the UAE do not accept the Will which are not registered according to the Law. Registration of the Will is a mandatory requirement for the Will to have legally enforceable. 

Take away

Discuss with immediate family members about your assets and liabilities from time to time. Prepare a list of your net worth such as movable assets, life insurance, employee benefits and share with your spouse and family members. Have separate bank accounts, assets and visas with your spouse so that in case of unforeseen circumstances their accounts are not frozen. Discuss with your lawyer, draft your Will and get it registered to have its legal enforceability.

Meet the author
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Vinay Kumar Goguru is a finance professional with more than 8 years of diverse experience as a researcher, instructor and Industry work experience with both public and private entities. Prior to MyMoneySouq, he spent 6 years in Berkadia, It's a commercial mortgage banking company. He has a "Doctoral Degree in Commerce" and two master's degrees with a specialization in Finance, one as Master of Commerce and other as Master of Business Administration. He has written several articles on personal finance, published by different International journals. He loves traveling, reading and writing is his passion. He has a dream of writing a book on his favorite finance topics.

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Vinay Kumar Goguru is a finance professional with more than 8 years of diverse experience as a researcher, instructor and Industry work experience with both public and private entities. Prior to MyMoneySouq, he spent 6 years in Berkadia, It's a commercial mortgage banking company. He has a "Doctoral Degree in Commerce" and two master's degrees with a specialization in Finance, one as Master of Commerce and other as Master of Business Administration. He has written several articles on personal finance, published by different International journals. He loves traveling, reading and writing is his passion. He has a dream of writing a book on his favorite finance topics.