Much has been written recently about Dubai Wills, so let’s here try to clarify the current state of play.
If you’re a non-Muslim and die without a Will, or with only a foreign (eg UK) Will in place, then your Dubai assets will be processed by the Dubai Courts under Sharia law. That means your house, car, bank accounts, and possessions will all pass as the local law dictates, without regard for your own ideas about who should benefit from your estate. For example, under Sharia law, if a husband dies leaving a wife, a son and a daughter, and no other relatives, then the assets will be divided between them as follows: Wife c.13%; Son c.58%; Daughter c.29%.
If you want to ensure that your assets pass as you intend, rather than as local law dictates, you can now do so by making a Will which can be filed with the DIFC Wills & Probate Registry (WPR). This service is only available to non-Muslims. The Will can be in English, and can specify how you want your estate to be divided between your relatives, friends, nominated charities etc. in the event of your demise.
So in the scenario above, the husband could, for example, state in the Will that all of his assets should pass to his wife, or equally to his children if his wife dies before him. He can even mention that he wants his favourite Fender Strat to go to his band mate Eric, if he likes.
Note that your Dubai assets include shares in companies registered in Dubai.
So if you own shares in an LLC or a Free Zone entity, those will pass in accordance with Sharia law unless you makea DIFC Will.Note also that the remit of the WPR now extends to Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), so RAK properties and RAKcompany shares can now be covered by a Will filed with the WPR.
The most important concern for any family is the children.
A Will registered with the WPR can include guardianship provisions specifying who has authority to care for anychildren in the family. Temporary guardianship provisions allow a nominated locally-based individual to look afterthe children in the immediate aftermath of the death of both parents, whilst permanent guardianship provisionsfacilitate the subsequent removal of the children from the jurisdiction by a family member, if that’s what isintended. In the absence of express guardianship provisions, the local Courts can become involved and decidewhat’s best for the children. Interestingly their views don’t always reflect those of the surviving family members.
Over the short time the WPR has been in existence, it has sought to make the process of drafting and filing a Willeasier. Although we would always recommend filing a full Will covering assets, shares and children, it is now possible to file a Will dealing only with real estate, or only with shares, or only with guardianship issues. Theadvantage is that the WPR filing fees for such limited Wills are lower than for a full Will.
And so we come to the crucial question – how much is this all going to cost?
Currently the fees payable to the WPR for filing a full Will are AED 10,000 for a single Will and AED 15,000 for mirrorWills (husband and wife). Plus legal fees if you enlist the help of a lawyer (which I would recommend). A little on thehigh side, you might say. But I prefer to think of it as front-loading your outlay. You can pay those fees now andensure an efficient process, through the DIFC Courts, in the English language, to achieve the gifts on death that youintended. Alternatively, you can save those fees now, but leave your family, when you die, to pay hundreds ofthousands of dirhams to advocates, for them to file cases in the local courts, in Arabic, to obtain orders dividingyour estate in a way that you didn’t want. It’s all up to you. Except dying, of course.