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Writing wills for expats in Dubai

Dubai expats with property, cash or investments spread across more than one country should make writing a will a priority.

A new law in the emirate simplifies the process and allows expats to opt for the best way for inheritance rules are applied to their estates.

The Dubai International Financial Centre Wills and Probate Registry offers the ideal solution – a structure for non-Muslims to choose what happens to their wealth when they pass on.

The registry also offers expats peace of mind in knowing their final wishes will be carried out according to their plans and not decided by a foreign court.

The Dubai government established the registry in 2014, and so far, more than 3,000 expats have taken advantage of the service.


Expats who can make a will in Dubai

Expats must pass a few easy tests to qualify to lodge a will at the registry:

  • They cannot be a Muslim nor have been a Muslim in the past
  • They must be aged 21 or over
  • They must own assets in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah and/or
  • Have minor children living with them in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah

The new law spells out how executors should handle the administration of a will to ensure the intended beneficiaries inherit the correct legacies.

The measure also sets out an appeal process and gives Dubai courts the power to order how a will is managed. The new rules apply to wills already at the registry, as well as new wills.


Opting out of Sharia law

One of the main reasons expats should deposit a will with the registry is to avoid the distribution of the estates under Sharia law.

Under Sharia rules, a spouse might not inherit the entire estate and a family’s wealth could go to a male relative rather than them.

Lawyers and financial advisers urge expats to write a will in each country where they have wealth or property to make sure the assets are distributed as they wish on death.

Dubai does not restrict an expat to having a single will. They may have one with the registry and another abroad.

However, expats should take professional legal advice in both countries so the terms of one will do not invalidate the other.


Dubai’s five expat wills

Dubai has five types of wills for expats –

  • Guardianship wills for the care of children aged under 18
  • Property wills for dealing with buildings and real estate
  • Free zone company wills managing the disposal of shares in five companies
  • Financial asset wills can hold cash or investments held in up to 10 bank or brokerage accounts
  • Full wills cover estates that have more wealth than covered by property, free zone or financial asset wills and include a section for guardianship as well

The wills can be single or mirror wills.

Expats can have the will drafted by a professional or write their own will.


Registering an expat will in Dubai

The registry will not write a will for expats, but does have a database of trusted professionals who can do the job.

Registry costs do not include any drafting or advice and vary depending on the type of will and a host of additional fees relating to redrafting, inspecting, searching and copying documents.

Making and registering the will is straightforward, although the process can take longer than expected.

The will should be drafted in English.

Once completed, an expat should make an appointment with the registry to check the documentation.

If the will passes the registry requirements, the will is witnessed before a registry officer.


Virtual will registration

The registry has an online video link service so that expats do not have to make a special trip to Dubai to lodge a will – but the service only applies for property, free zone or financial asset wills.

Instead, contact the registry to set up a secure and direct video/chat room.

Before starting the link, the registry will want to see the will, identification and other supporting documents.


Revoking a registered will

Once lodged, the will remains in force until revoked by the making of a new will.

On marriage or remarriage, if no replacement will is made and you die intestate, the estate is divided among a list of relatives laid down in law.

On divorce, any gifts to the former spouse are cancelled, as is their appointment as executor, but the rest of the will stays in force.


Find out more about registering expat wills in Dubai

The Wills and Probate Registry web site has answers to frequently asked questions and more detailed information about the will service for expats in Dubai.



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