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Non-Muslim expats: How to get a will for assets in the UAE

Getting a will made can help protect your immediate family from unforeseen circumstances

If you do not have a will, the UAE Law of Inheritance will be applied on your assets after your demise; and can even affect the guardianship of your children if they are in the minor age group. As a non-Muslim expat in the UAE, you may already have a will made in your home country for your assets there. But your home-country laws of inheritance may not apply to your movable and/or immovable assets in the UAE, unless you have a registered will recognised as per UAE law.

According to a survey conducted by DIFC Wills & Probate Registry last year, nearly 60 per cent of respondents don’t see Dubai as a permanent home.

However, 64% of expats stay significantly longer in Dubai than they had originally intended, and despite 58% of respondents claiming they had assets in Dubai, little more than 10% out of these have a will registered in the UAE.

What can happen if you don’t have a will upon death?
  • Your bank accounts will be frozen immediately for existing or contingent liabilities (regardless of it being a joint or individual accounts).
  • Dependent visas will be cancelled.
  • Re-appropriation of assets may be unfavourable and may not stay within your immediate family.
  • Custody of minor children may go to someone you don’t prefer or the local government might have to intervene
  • Life insurance claims may go into covering your liabilities or be counted as part of property to be appropriated by the Courts
  • A court case appealing the automatic appropriation can take as long as five years and result in huge legal payouts.
  • Bulk of your estates might go to extended family as per Sharia law.
What you need to do beforehand?
  • Inform your immediate family i.e. spouse or parents about your assets and liabilities from time to time.
  • Have a complete list of all your assets, including movable assets, property, life insurance, employee benefits and have an idea of your net worth.
  • Always properly complete the beneficiary details on your employee benefits form.
  • Try to have separate bank accounts, assets and visas with your spouse so as to avoid problems if accounts are frozen.

Steps to get a will registered in Abu Dhabi:

The ‘wills’ registration office in the capital, where many non-Muslim residents register their wills, has reduced the registration charges from AED 5,500/- to AED 950/- from December 2017.
What do you need beforehand?
  • Emirates ID.
  • Passport (original and a copy).
  • The document “Will” to be legalised, with a sufficient number of copies for all parties concerned and a copy for records.
  • Documentation that provide clear proof of the bequeathed property ownership.
  • An official translation attested by the Ministry of Justice is required where the document is drafted in a language other than Arabic language.

Submit application and get approval

The application is submitted online at Abu Dhabi Judicial Department [ADJD] website. The competent employee verifies if the application meets the requirements. A notification by SMS is sent to the applicant with the approval of the application or request of modification. The application fee is paid online through ADJD website.

Processing of application

The applicant can contact the Non-Muslim Wills Registration Office to schedule an appointment for the application processing. Then the applicant has to visit on the fixed date the Non-Muslim Wills Registration Office to submit the original documents. After completing these procedures, finally the will is legalised and will be delivered by the Notary Public of the department.
Other details:
  • Venue: Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (Main Building)
  • Timing: 8am to 2pm [Sunday to Thursday]
  • Service Fee: AED 950/-
  • Residents can contact us for details at 02 651 3257 or 02 651 3262 or email:

Getting a will in Dubai

We spoke to Mohammad Marria from Just Wills to compile this simple yet essential guide to setting up a will in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for expats.
While you can do the entire process alone, we recommend using a consultant as verifications of various documents and processing is easier with such agencies. Ensure that they are specialised in this field and always go through a trusted reference.
You can get your will registered at Dubai Courts or through the DIFC Wills and Probate registry. Note: More details on the differences in will registration in Dubai Courts and DIFC Wills and Probate registry is explained below.

Steps to getting registered

  • Drafting the will
    This is the most important step of the process and while you can ask a legal consultant in your home country to help draft the will, it is essential that you get the will checked by a specialist in the UAE. A wrongly written will can tie up your assets in long and tiresome legal battles for your loved ones. Most specialised consultants offer this service as an add-on and costs can range anywhere from AED 2,000/- to AED 6,000/-.
    For DIFC Wills and Probate registry, they do not provide any will-writing services and when you go there, you must be ready with your written will. However, they have a register of companies (which is not proof of endorsement) on their website who can do it for you. It is ultimately your responsibility to decide who drafts your will.
  • Arabic translation
    All documents to be submitted in Dubai Courts need to be translated to Arabic by approved legal translating centers (registered with the Courts and Ministry of Justice). Consultants can help you find ones closest to you or even take you to these centers. This can cost up to Dh1,500 per will.
    For DIFC Wills and Probate registry, the documents need not be translated and you can go through the entire process of documentation in English.
  • Coverage
    A will registered in Dubai Courts can cover assets and your estates across the country. Bank accounts, property, guardianship and all other clauses in the will are applicable in all emirates during execution of the will.
    However, registering your will with DIFC Wills and Probate registry will give you coverage only in the emirate of Dubai. will and testament inheritance sharia
  • Registration
    Registering your will at Dubai Courts costs AED 2,165/-* per will while registering your Dubai-specific will at the DIFC Wills & Probate Registry can cost you upwards of AED 10,000/-.
  • Power of attorney
    Sometimes an expat may take up Power of Attorney (PoA) for their spouse in order to give them legal control over assets during their lifetime. This is not sufficient to ensure that your family is protected upon your death.
    Mohammad concurs, saying, “Taking a PoA is a great way to compliment your will, because it will enable your next of kin, or trusted person, to look after your assets during your lifetime. However, this is not a substitute for a will as all PoA agreements turn void once death is confirmed.”
    A power of attorney draft can cost around AED 1,000/- to AED 2,000/- while registration may cost AED 265/-*.
  • Guardianship will
    A separate guardianship will is not mandatory in Dubai Courts and the clause can be inserted in your will. However, if you want to make a separate guardianship will, it will be considered as any other will and charged AED 2,165/- as is normally the case.
  • Embassy and consulate
    Once your will is notarised and registered in Dubai Courts, you need not submit anything to your embassy or consulate. However, assets in your home-country are subject to local laws and regulations. Get in touch with your embassy for all such cases.

Who will execute the will?
You can nominate your spouse, immediate family, including children, or siblings, who are above 21 years of age as the executor of the will. This can be a difficult role, so it is suggested that you select a person who is trustworthy, and capable of handling stress.

This story has been updated with inputs from Anwar Ahmad, Staff Reporter at Gulfnews.
All costs mentioned in this publication are subject to change, and are indicative only rates.

Disclaimer: This article is an informative guide and should be taken as such; kindly address all queries and complaints to relevant legal departments in your emirate. Ascot & Fitch is not responsible for any changes in fees or processes.

Published: 11 January 2018.

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