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DIFC Wills – Inheritance Provisions for non-Muslims in Dubai

The Dubai International Financial Centre (“DIFC”) Wills and Probate Registry (the “Registry”) is a public entity of the Dubai Government and an initiative established under the Jurisdiction of the DIFC Courts. The Registry is the first estate planning tool in the Middle East that allows non-Muslims to pass on their assets in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah pursuant to the terms of their Will.

In accordance with the DIFC Registry regulations, individuals owning any assets or property in the Emirate of Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah are eligible to register English language Wills within the framework of DIFC’s internationally recognised common law principles. This provides legal certainty with regard to the inheritance of assets upon the testator’s death.

Other unique features of the DIFC Wills include:

  • Guardianship provisions which allow parents to specify who will be authorised to have guardianship over their children in the event that both parents have deceased.
  • Dubai Land Department (“DLD”) ties, through which the DIFC are able to notify the DLD of any properties that are the subject of a DIFC Will. This process informs the DLD that the transfer of such properties upon death must be subject to the DIFC Will associated with it.
  • Subsequent amendments to DIFC Wills at little cost.

Testators have the option of registering four types of DIFC Wills:

  1. A “Full Will” which includes any assets located in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah (inclusive of guardianship provisions);
  2. A “Property Will”, which is restricted only to dealing with five real estate properties located in Dubai and/or Ras Al Khaimah;
  3. A “Guardianship Will”, restricted only to dealing with guardianship provisions for minor children under the age of 21 years old and living in Dubai; and
  4. A “Free Zone Company Will”, which only covers Ras Al Khaimah International Corporate Centre company (“RAKICC”) shares and is restricted to five different shareholdings.

Additionally, married couples can register two single DIFC Wills that are virtually identical (from any of the above-mentioned types of DIFC wills), commonly known as “Mirror Wills”.

In accordance with the relevant rules, a DIFC Will must be drafted either by the testator themselves, or by a registered Will’s Draftsmen. Andrew Lyons, a Senior Associate with Davidson & Co and a registered Wills Draftsmen with the DIFC Registry, was recognised for his role as part of a working group of legal practitioners engaged in reviewing and providing input in the draft rules governing the DIFC Registry during the build up to its launch. This has given Davidson & Co a unique insight into the rules and the procedures governing the DIFC Wills.

For further information or a free initial consultation on the above, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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