WILLS: WHAT ARE THEY?
The UAE is home to many expat nationalities who are at different stages of their life in terms of age, status, financial condition, religion, family and ownership of assets.
Most of us earn and make a living to secure our future and to provide our loved ones a comfortable life when we are alive and thereafter. The choice that we have, to share our prosperity with the people we love, is a very critical freedom that we often take for granted. But do we have the same freedom or control on how our income shall be distributed after death?
Our most valued treasure are our children, whom we take care of when we are alive. If only there was a way we could make sure this care could continue if we weren’t around. A Will is the document which aims to make this happen, to the degree that financial security allows.
INTRODUCING THE WILL
A Will is a document with legal and personal sanctity that describes how a person’s assets are to be managed after death. It can also be used to denote wishes like guardianship of children. It is a common misconception that Wills are only important for people who are at the dusk of their life. The fact is, that any adult who has assets can make a Will. The creation of a Will has nothing to do with age, financial status or even nationality. It is simply about deciding the distribution of current assets, and future assets such as pensions, life insurance, end of service benefits, bank accounts, as well as the guardianship of minor children.
For Muslim citizens and expats, (unless non-Muslim expats ask for the application of the Law of their Country) their Will or testament will be governed by the Sharia Law. As UAE is a Muslim country, all courts apply the principles of Islamic Law in matters of inheritance in the absence of Wills. So your assets will be apportioned as per the UAE Law of Inheritance which can affect the guardianship of your children. Further, the Courts accept the Wills of expatriates of different religions, provided they are residents of the UAE. But before proceeding with the process of preparing the Will, a legal advice is required from a person who has full knowledge of UAE Laws.
If the Will of a non-Muslim contains any condition or subject contrary to the Law or the provisions of the principles of Islamic Law, it can still be valid, but if it contains any condition contrary to Public Order, such condition/conditions shall be void, even if the Will remains valid. In some cases the whole document can be void. While the Wills of the Muslims must be in accordance with the provisions of Islamic Law otherwise they will be void.
TYPES OF WILLS
NOTARY PUBLIC WILLS
These are Wills registered with a Notary Public in the Emirate of residence of the testator or where he has assets.
For Non-Muslims, they have an option to register their Will pursuant to the UAE Law or the Law applicable in their home country and even disseminate their assets in their home country. However, the Will cannot have any condition that is against the Public Order or Public Morals in UAE, such as insisting on cremation of bodies or bequeathing of assets to animals. But it may contain the wishes of the testator to distribute the estate between his/her children and his/her siblings, contrary to what is stipulated in the Personal Status Law.
Also, the UAE Civil Code applies the Law of the home country of the expat to determine how movable assets (cash, investments, cars, personal items, etc.) will be distributed. But in the case of immovable property “the Law of the UAE shall apply to Wills made by aliens disposing of their real property located in state”, which means that the provisions in the Will relating to real estate may be governed by either Sharia Law or the Personal Affairs Law.
Article 1 of the UAE Personal Status Law states that “the provisions of this Law shall apply to citizens of the United Arab Emirates unless non-Muslims among them have special provisions applicable to their community or religion”. So the Law shall equally apply to non-citizens unless they specifically ask for the application of the Law of their home country.
Therefore, this kind of will though has certain limitations regarding the content but the Will can still be valid in all Emirates of the UAE.
DIFC WILLS & PROBATE REGISTRY WILLS
The Resolution 4 of 2014 was issued by approving the establishment of the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry for non-Muslims as an ancillary body of the Dispute Resolution Authority (DRA), and the Head of the DRA set out the duties, powers and the structure of the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry.
It gives non-Muslims in Dubai and Ras al Khaimah (RAK) an opportunity to register their Wills. The rules that govern DIFC Wills and Probate Registry are based on principles of Common Law. It allows non-Muslims over 21 years of age who are eligible to register Wills to make Wills with more ease and taking lesser time. It should also be noted that the limitations in the registration of Wills with the Notary Public are not applicable to the Wills registered in the DIFC, as the moveable as well as immoveable properties, including real estate, can be distributed entirely according to the testator’s wishes.
The DIFC Wills gives the testator more freedom in terms of the Will, provided that its validity is in Dubai or RAK, thus it has territorial limitation.
NEW DUBAI LAW NO. 15 OF 2017 FOR NON-MUSLIM EXPAT WILLS
Law No.15 of 2017 was issued by His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
The official statement on the Law was that “The Law, which is applicable to the Wills and assets of non-Muslims based in Dubai, including the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), creates a clear legal framework for non-Muslims to create Wills according to their wishes”.
The DIFC Wills to a large extent provides freedom to disburse assets of non-Muslims as stipulated in their own Laws. The Law stipulates that the Will is a preamble to the inheritance. However, the Will cannot be executed or the estate cannot be distributed, unless the expenses of the deceased like funeral arrangements are met, the expenses of the estate administration and execution of the Will are settled, the wages of the executor and the manager of the estate and the debts owed by the estate are paid.
The Law states that the jurisdiction over disputes related to the Will shall be the Dubai Courts or the DIFC Courts according to the place of registration of the Will.
HOW TO GO ABOUT IT?
The procedure for registering Wills involves drafting the Will, including the provisions as per the wishes of the testator, keeping in mind the Laws of the land and the rules governing the registration. Any compromise in the process will defeat the whole purpose of the Will registration because invalid Wills are as good as no Will in the UAE, even after going through the whole process and spending money on their creation.
For Notary Public Will registration, the draft Will and the documents like proof of ownership of the assets mentioned, passport copy, Arabic translations, etc. are to be submitted with the Notary Public office and the cost for the registration is around 2,000 AED.
The DIFC Wills can be registered online using the draft Will, IDs and documents and it can cost from 7,500 to 15,000 AED depending on the type and number of Wills.
THINK ABOUT IT - Are Wills Worthy?
Of course yes! As there are several tear-jerking stories where the breadwinner of a family died unexpectedly without a Will and in addition to the tragedy and loss of the whole event, his or her family had to face financial complications also, such as the freezing of assets and bank accounts, cancellation of dependent visas and confusion over the custody of minor children. Just one step to avoid all these unnecessary complications, to ease the tragedy that itself cannot be avoided…is to REGISTER A WILL!
Whether you are a well-established businessman or a salaried employee or a homemaker of any nationality, a Will is your weapon to ensure control on your assets even after you move on.
Once you arrive at the good decision of making the Will, the first step would be to put your wishes in writing and draft a Will. Here is some free advice to give you a head start.
1. Get yourself updated with the Inheritance Law in UAE so that you know your rights regarding the disbursing of your assets and make sure that your Will does not get invalidated for being against the Law.
Allegiance International can help you update yourself with the legal aspect of the Will writing through consultations and presentations and help you find legal solutions to include all your wishes in the Will while making sure that it is compliant with the Law.
2. Take special care that your Will is worded exactly as you intend it to be, because remember, you won’t be there to explain or alter it when it comes into effect.
Allegiance International can help you draft a Will that is exactly the way you want it to be, and language may not be a bar for the same because our consultants are well versed in Arabic, English, Turkish, Hindi, Urdu as well as Malayalam and you can feel free to explain yourself in any of the languages above. We can also help you with exact Arabic translations which again should not change the meaning of your Will.
3. Approach a firm that has expertise in both Will drafting and the Laws relating to it and which can provide future legal help too. Remember that inheritance Law is changing fast and so updating the Will is always crucial.
Allegiance International is not just a Will writing service provider but is a full-fledged legal and business consultancy firm and is a one stop solution for all the legal troubleshooting that can arise in the present or the future. Further, our consultants have many years of experience in dealing with Inheritance Law and drafting of Last Wills and are well informed in this area.
4. Depending on the nature of your wishes, the location of your assets, budget and the territorial validity of the Will that you prefer, you can choose options regarding the type of the Will you want to register.
At Allegiance International, we are here not simply to write a Will for you but to provide to you the best solution that is available so that your wishes are mirrored in your Will exactly. We use the law to find innovative legal ways to ensure that your assets are protected.
5. There may be many Will writing establishments in UAE who offer their services at exorbitant prices, do your research and choose the right firm that provides professional services at the right price.
Allegiance International provides its services at affordable rates and we have packages suiting the client’s financial status. You won’t pay more than you absolutely must.
For more information and any queries kindly contact us:
Legal & Business Consultancy
+971 4 3695542