Sean Hird, Director, DIFC Wills & Probate Registry, explains why the Registry is the definitive option for non-Muslim residents and investors in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah
There is a common concern amongst people living in Dubai - a critical question we hear time and again, and one that we are ready to demystify once and for all. If you have children, if you have money sitting in the bank, if you own a car or even own property here, you are likely to be one of those asking the vital question - how do I protect my family and my assets if I die, and what is the most secure option when registering a Will in Dubai?
There are three options that a non-Muslim resident or investor has in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah.
The first is a Will registered in your home country - this is known here as a Foreign Will. The second is called a Notarised Will, which is authenticated as a verified document by a Notary Public. Even if you possess a Foreign or Notarised Will, your assets and the guardianship of your children would almost certainly be governed by Sharia Law. If you choose to contest the process, it could take up to two years of lengthy and costly legal proceedings. Since May 2015, residents and investors in Dubai have a third option provided by the DIFC Wills & Probate Registry which is accepted by the Dubai Courts. This is a first of its kind service in the MENA region, enabling the registration of an English language Will under common law. This is the surest and most efficient option to protect your children and your assets, and the only one, apart from Sharia Law, that provides certainty of succession and inheritance in line with your wishes.
So how does it work?
The Registry allows eligible people - non-Muslim parents, property owners and asset holders over 21 years old - to determine how their assets are distributed and who will care for their children. You can choose one of four types of Will depending on your needs: a standard Full Will for assets and children you may have in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah; a Guardianship Will - covering only guardianship arrangements; an online Property Will which covers up to five properties in Dubai and/or Ras Al Khaimah, and the Free Zone Company Share Will, recently launched online Will for free zone company shareholders located in Dubai and/or Ras Al Khaimah. The Registry is not qualified to give legal advice for the actual drafting of the Will, so we strongly advise that you do this with one of our registered Will Draftsmen. Legal practitioners who comply with the Registry’s rules can be found at www.difcprobate.ae. Once you have sought legal advice, gather documentation together and have those all-important conversations with your loved ones and your extended family.
There are two elements to this type of conversation.
The first includes talking through your wishes as laid out in your Will, and ensuring that your appointed executor (or executors), as well as your interim and permanent guardians, are aware of your choices.
The second conversation is all about practical advice and information that your loved ones might need to know if you are no longer there. Have you agreed with your partner on what would happen to your children if one or both of you passes away? Do family members back home know passwords, where the spare key is kept, and the phone number of your nanny, office or next door neighbour? These are small things, but may have big consequences if unknown in times of stress and grief.
When you have a compliant Will, registration is a straightforward process. It comprises of a one-hour appointment, where you can sign off on the all-important document with witnesses present. If you have determined guardianship for your children in the Will, the guardian should be present - or alternatively you can ask them to sign a witness statement instead of attending. Once registered only you and the Registry will have access to the Will, which is encrypted and stored securely for 120 years.
It is actually far simpler than many people might imagine. We know that people, particularly in Dubai, have a tendency to put off ‘life admin’ tasks. However, we do encourage you to think more long-term as it will benefit you and your loved ones tenfold in the future.
Over 2,500 Wills have been registered since DIFC Wills & Probate Registry opened last summer. They have introduced numerous ways to make payment and access far easier.