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September 2019

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UPDATE – DIFC Wills Expand Outside of Dubai

By Ahmed Ragab AlKotby and Dennis Varghese

In the summer of 2019, the DIFC issued a new law which has finally allowed DIFC Wills to include assets outside the closed vicinity of Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah (“RAK”).

Recap on Wills in the UAE and the DIFC

For expatriates in the UAE, the laws and procedures related to wills can be daunting. The country’s inheritance laws are based on Sharia law, which prescribes a fixed share allocation of assets. Prior to 2015, if non-Muslims wanted to circumvent this allocation, they had to request that the law of their home country be applied in accordance with the UAE’s personal status law. This came with a heavy process in courts and costs that put heirs in a difficult position.

However, since 2015, non-Muslims have been able to circumnavigate the Sharia law by registering a “DIFC Will”. A DIFC Will is a legally recognised document that allows a non-Muslim testator (the “Testator”) to explicitly provide for the distribution of assets such as property, financial assets, and businesses to named beneficiaries. This was made possible with the development of the DIFC Wills Service Centre (“Centre”), which implemented the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry Rules (the “Rules”), a joint initiative of the Government of Dubai and the DIFC Dispute Resolution Authority.

Recent Changes

The Rules have been recently amended by the enactment of Order No. 3 of 2019 on 30 June 2019.

Two main amendments will be of particular interest to non-Muslims in the UAE:

  1. The limitation to Dubai and RAK assets has been removed and DIFC Wills can now relate to the Testator’s worldwide assets.
  2. A major procedural change was also put in place so a Probate Director / Authorised Officer (who had to be a DIFC employee) can now no longer act as a second witness to a DIFC Will. Testators will need to bring 2 witnesses (aged 21 or over) to the Centre to sign the will (and note that such witnesses cannot be a beneficiary to, or a guardian named in, the will)

The decision to allow assets from outside of Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah to be bequeathed under a DIFC Will is an exciting new development and opens the door for worldwide assets to be included, eliminating the need to have separate wills in multiple jurisdictions. This should greatly simplify the process of estate administration and considerably enhance the efficiency of DIFC Wills.

What are the different types of DIFC Wills available?

The DIFC has a DIFC Wills Service department (“Service”), which is an end-to-end service that deals with probate matters through the DIFC Courts, rather than just will registration.

The Service offers five different types of wills:

  1. Full Will – encompasses all assets, both movable and immovable;
  2. Guardianship Will – covers guardianship provisions for minors below the age of 21 years old;
  3. Property Will – can apply up to 5 real estate properties;
  4. Business Owners Will – covers shares in up to 5 different companies and can be located in either a free zone or the UAE mainland;
  5. Financial Assets Will – covers shares in up to 10 different bank accounts.

What is the cost of a DIFC Will?

In addition to the legal fees of drafting a DIFC Will (which will vary from firm to firm), the Centre will charge a one-time fee at registration. The fees listed in the table below are exclusive of VAT:

 

Full Will

 

Single Will – AED 10,000.00

 

Mirror Wills – AED 15,000.00

 

 

Guardianship Will

 

Single Will – AED 5,000.00

 

Mirror Wills – AED 7,500.00

 

 

Property Will

 

Single Will – AED 7,500.00

 

Mirror Wills – AED 10,000.00

 

 

Business Owners Will

 

Single Will – AED 5,000.00

 

Mirror Wills – AED 7,500.00

 

 

Financial Assets Will

 

Single Will – AED 5,000.00

 

Mirror Wills – AED 7,500.00

 

Note: Mirror Wills apply to a married couple who wish to register their wills at the same time.

Further Points to Note Regarding the Changes:

  1. The Rules have guardianship provisions which cannot be altered, and such provisions will continue to be valid for minor children who are habitual residents of either Dubai or RAK;
  2. Testators who wish to register wills for their Dubai and / or RAK assets may continue to do so as before;
  3. Since 30 June 2019, the Centre is no longer required to store hard copies of registered wills. Testators who already have a registered will and would like to collect the signed hard copy of their wills from the Centre’s office will have to do so before 31 December 2019. After this date, the Centre will destroy all hard copies. It’s important to note that only the Testator, or a lawyer with a Power of Attorney (POA), with a valid photo ID, may collect the hard copy of the will;
  4. Testators who already have a registered DIFC Will, but would like to extend the jurisdiction to include assets in other Emirates or global assets, will have the opportunity to amend their wills by making appointments via email (appointments@difcwills.ae). The Centre’s fee for this service will be AED 550.00 + VAT;
  5. DIFC Wills can only be registered by non-Muslims who have never been Muslims. If a Testator becomes a Muslim after registration of their will, the will and the estate will be administered according to the UAE laws.

For more information on DIFC Wills and the amendments, please view the DIFC Wills and Probate Rules document here.

Al Dahbashi Gray can assist you. If you need any help in understanding the changes and the potential impact of the recent amendments, please contact us on info@adglegal.com.

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