Dubai – The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) announced on Monday a landmark legal initiative to enable non-Muslim expatriates owning assets in Dubai a solution to secure their family’s succession and inheritance rights after their death.
With the introduction of new rules, the DIFC has become the first jurisdiction in the Middle East where a non-Muslim individual can register a will under the internationally recognised common law principles.
At present, the distribution of assets of a deceased non-Muslim expatriate is guided by Shariah-based UAE federal laws, including the Personal Status Law, Civil Transactions Code and by public order.
In line with the initiative, the DIFC launched on Monday “Wills and Probate Registry” to provide non-Muslim expatriates a facility to register English language wills that will allow their assets to be transferred upon death in line with their wishes.
The Registry, established by Resolution No. 4 of 2014, was set up under the directives of Shaikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and President of the DIFC, as part of the initiatives of the Dispute Resolution Authority.
Essa Kazim, Governor of the DIFC, said the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry is a first for the Middle East and Africa region.
“The new Registry reflects respect for the diversity of the UAE community and the keenness of our country to provide new frameworks for strengthening the legal environment in line with the community’s needs and requirements. The initiative confirms the country’s leadership in various sectors and further enhances Dubai’s attractiveness as a destination for investment, supporting greater economic growth, stability and prosperity.”
“The objective of the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry is to give expatriates a legal solution to secure their family’s future after their death,” said Michael Hwang, Head of the Dispute Resolution Authority and the Chief Justice of the DIFC Courts.
“The Registry creates legal certainty that the testator’s Dubai-based assets will be distributed as set out in their registered wills. The new regime reflects the spirit of existing UAE laws,” Hwang said at a briefing held at the DIFC. Also present were prominent members of the Dubai legal community including the Head of Cassation of the Dubai Courts.
The DIFC chief justice said the new rules have been drafted on the basis of Common Law principles from the Estates Act and Probate Rules of the UK, and legislation of other leading common law jurisdictions such as Singapore and Malaysia.
“While the rules are comprehensive, they are also easily accessible to legal professionals in the UAE. The rules also reflect the spirit of UAE laws, which provide non-Muslims the right to choose the way in which their estates are distributed.”
The Registry has been established under the jurisdiction of the DIFC Courts, allowing it to operate as a distinct entity. DIFC Courts will handle all probate claims related to the registered wills. The service will only cover estates located in the Emirate of Dubai for both residents and non-residents. Registration appointments can be made online on the website: www.difcprobate.ae
A working group of Dubai based legal practitioners has been engaged with for the past year, to review and provide input into the draft rules.