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United Arab Emirates > Legal Developments > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

UPDATE: New DIFC Wills and Probate Rules

The DIFC Wills and Probate Registry (WPR) has been established as an official mechanism for non-Muslims to register their wills and have it enforced through the DIFC Courts. Previously there was a lot of uncertainty with regards to the registration of wills of non-Muslims since Shari’a principles govern inheritance throughout the UAE. If an expatriate living in the UAE dies without having a will in place, Shari’a principles will most likely apply, and family members may be forced into an heirship regime without fully understanding the consequences. The best way to ensure certainty over your assets upon death is to register a will with the DIFC WPR. Although the Registry has its own complex rules and laws that would be applicable, it provides a relative freedom of disposition of assets upon death. The DIFC WPR has gone through a number of changes since its establishment in 2015 and has consistently strived to better protect testators and their assets. The DIFC WPR’s jurisdiction has now officially expanded to include assets outside of Dubai.

The DIFC Wills and Probate Registry has recently announced that it has introduced new rules which will come to effect as of June 30th, 2019. The major changes are as follows:

  • Previously, the rules allowed non-Muslim testators to register a will with the DIFC WPR only if they had assets situated in Dubai and/or Ras al Khaima (RAK). This has now been amended to include assets worldwide. The financial assets wills, property wills, and business owners’ wills shall, however, continue to be valid for only UAE estates.
  • Guardianship wills and guardianship provisions mentioned in the testator’s wills shall, however, continue to be valid only for minors residing in Dubai and/or RAK.
  • The Probate Director will no longer act as a first witness to the will. The testators are now required to bring in two witnesses who are not beneficiaries, guardians or a spouse of a beneficiary or guardian.
  • Testators can now take the original hard copies of the will home as the DIFC WPR will no longer be keeping the originals and will only store an electronic copy.

For those who have already registered a will with the DIFC WPR and wish to extend the jurisdiction to their assets situated outside of Dubai and RAK, they made do so without any additional costs charged by the DIFC WPR between June 30th and August 29th 2019.

Testators who have registered their wills and who wish to keep their original hard copy may collect the original until December 31st 2019. The DIFC WPR will thereafter be shredding all the hard copies filed.