Author
Jerry Parks

Jerry Parks

Partner

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Author
Jerry Parks

Jerry Parks

Partner

Read More

14 September 2021

How DIFC Courts wills can protect your assets in the UAE and beyond

  • Quick read

"No one here gets out alive." If Jim Morrison was right, it makes sense for you to prepare for the inevitable. Like many people, you may want control over the distribution of your estate after your death. Maybe you're motivated by tax considerations, or you might simply want the comfort of knowing trusted friends or relatives will look after your children if you die. Whatever your situation, it makes sense to make a will – and if you're a non-Muslim with assets in the UAE, you'll want to use the DIFC Courts Wills Service.

Why the DIFC?

The DIFC provides a common law environment in which non-Muslims can file a will in the English language to govern how they want their assets distributed after they die. These assets can be located anywhere in the world, and can include: 

  • real estate
  • cash
  • possessions
  • shares in companies, and 
  • bank and brokerage accounts.

DIFC Courts wills also provide for temporary and permanent guardianship for minor children. This is an important consideration for the many expatriate families who live here in the UAE where 90% of the population do not hold a UAE passport.

What is the DIFC Courts Wills Service?

The DIFC Courts Wills Service is a joint venture between the Dubai government and the DIFC Courts designed to create and maintain a wills and probate system for non-Muslims. Using the DIFC Courts Wills Service, non-Muslims can sign and file a will dictating how they want their assets distributed, and their minor children cared for, after they die.

The initiative is one of many ways the United Arab Emirates government is creating an institutional infrastructure dedicated to showing tolerance and acceptance towards the values of all citizens. 

Types of will

There are various types of will that you can sign and file with the DIFC: 

  • Financial assets will: filed online; it covers bank or brokerage accounts. 
  • Business owners will: filed online; it covers shares in companies.
  • Property will: filed online; it covers immovable property. 
  • Guardianship will: for the guardianship of minor children in the UAE. You cannot file online, and it requires the involvement of the DIFC Courts Wills Service in the signing process, either in person or via video conference.
  • Full will: can cover all the items mentioned in the categories above. You cannot file online, and it requires the involvement of the DIFC Courts Wills Service in the signing process, either in person or via video conference. 

Clauses in a full will 

Typically, we would draft a full will with the following provisions included:

  • testator details
  • declaration of being a non-Muslim
  • geographical scope
  • revocation of earlier wills relating to the same geographical scope
  • appointment of executors
  • appointment of guardians (temporary and permanent)
  • specific gifts
  • executors to pay all debts and hold residuary estate as directed
  • trust and administration provisions, and
  • provisions for the residuary gifts.

How to file your will with the DIFC

Currently, all DIFC Courts wills are signed and filed online through a video conference facility accessed via the DIFC Courts Wills Service website. For security purposes, the process requires a PC and a smartphone. All parties access the website through an emailed link, including the two witnesses (which we usually provide). All parties then scan a QR code to access the documents, and a user ID allows the documents to be signed on the parties’  smartphones. Finally, the DIFC uploads the signed will onto the DIFC Courts Wills Service Service registry. You can download the signed will from the registry at a later date.

Probate

On the death of the testator, the executor mentioned in the will must apply for a probate order (and a guardianship order if necessary) from the DIFC Court. This authorises the executor to administer the estate of the deceased, under the terms of the will. The DIFC Court handles the probate process, including the administration of any claims or objections. The UAE onshore courts can ratify the probate which is then submitted to the banks, company registrars, Land Department and other official bodies to facilitate the collection and subsequent distribution of the estate of the deceased.

How can we help?

Our Wills & Succession Planning team in Dubai can draft and file DIFC Courts wills and can guide you and your family through this process. To find out more about how we can help, contact a member of our team.

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