A thorough guide on what's involved when making a last will and testament in Dubai as an expat
17 February 2021| Last updated on 4 April 2021
You might have a lot of questions about getting a will in Dubai...
Making provisions for your family and friends via a will can be a bit of a daunting task, or it may be a morbid subject to even think about. But female expatriates living in the UAE must really think through the consequences of not having a will in place.
A will is especially important for expatriate women who are faced with the death of their husband, more so if you both have assets such as bank accounts, properties or jewellery. Even if you currently do not own any important assets, you may acquire them over the course of your life.
In this guide, we take a look at what making a will in Dubai as an expat could involve.
What does the UAE law say about wills?
Since the UAE is a Muslim country, all courts adhere to Sharia laws in regard to inheritance. Previously, the laws also applied to both Muslim and non-Muslim expats living in the Emirates. Before the law reforms in November 2020, it meant that in the event that you or your spouse meet an unfortunate incident, the distribution of your wealth and assets that are in the UAE will be very different compared to your home country's laws.
After the new law changes in November 2020, a non-Muslim expat who is a resident in the UAE can apply their home country's laws on the distribution of their UAE assets, or according to their legally recognized will. This is especially important for expatriate women faced with the death of their husband.
The only exception is for property owned and purchased in the UAE, which will be managed as per local Sharia law or unless there is a written will.
What happens if I don't have a will in Dubai?
After someone dies in the UAE, their banks accounts (as well as joint accounts) will be frozen.
If you're a female expat and you do not have a will, the UAE Law of Inheritance will be applied on your assets after you or your husband pass away.
As a result, distribution of assets may not be in your favour and any hard-earned belongings may not be passed on to the right beneficiaries. If your husband dies, you will not be entitled to all or any of the assets depending on the family situation.
Not having a will can even affect the guardianship of your children if they are under the age of 18.
Creating a will in Dubai can help provide you with the assurance that your assets will be distributed according to you, and also ensures that your children will be taken care of by the right people that you trust.
The beneficiaries from your will can access your assets by presenting a Succession Certificate from the Dubai Family Court, showing their legal entitlement. The same applies to the guardian appointed in your will, who will then be entrusted with the care of your children after you pass away.
Who can make a will in Dubai?
UAE Law no. 15 of 2017 concerns inheritance, wills and probate for non-Muslims living and working in Dubai.
As per UAE Law no. 15 of 2017, non-Muslim expats in the Emirate can register wills in English. This allows residents to sidestep the Sharia laws surrounding inheritance and instead apply the legal system of their choice to their assets.
Any non-Muslim resident who is aged 21 and above, and has either of the following in Dubai can make a will:
- Children below 21 years old.
- Movable or immovable assets in Dubai
For Muslim residents, assets will be distributed under the UAE's Shariah law.
Where can you register a will in Dubai? How much does it cost?
You can register your will at Dubai Courts or at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Wills Service Centre.
The cost of registering a will in Dubai differs depending on where you go.
At Dubai Courts, the cost ranges between AED 8,000 to AED 10,000**. At the DIFC Wills Service Centre, you can expect to pay between AED 15,000 to AED 20,000**
The costs of making a will includes the lawyer consultation, drafting the will, official Arabic translation, and registration.
**Prices as of 2021.
How to make a will in Dubai for non-Muslim expats
Creating a will in Dubai doesn't have to be a difficult process. We've done the homework for you and compiled a step-by-step guide on how to register a will in Dubai.
1. Drafting your will
First, consult with a proper legal specialist in Dubai to draft your will. Make sure they're registered with the Dubai Legal Affairs Department. A full will in Dubai will include all your assets and guardianship provisions.
You will be required to appoint an executor of the will and guardian. Make sure to choose your executor of the will and guardian very carefully. He or she can be your trusted friend or family member who must also be over 21 years old.
The executor of the will is the person who will distribute your assets to the beneficiaries mentioned in your will.
2. Translate your will into Arabic
Once your draft is ready, the will must be sent in for a legal translation into Arabic, as all documents submitted to Dubai Courts require a translation.
However, if you're registering your will at the DIFC Wills Service Centre, where the process can be done in English, then you won't need an Arabic translation.
3. Register the will in Dubai
Finally, you can register your will at either the DIFC Wills Service Centre or Dubai Courts.
Be sure to revisit and review your will in case you remarry or get a divorce while continuing to work and live in Dubai.
And most importantly, keep your will in a safe place!