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New DIFC Wills and Probate Registry Rules

Mariem Al-Ssayrafi

Author: Mariem Al-Ssayrafi
Lawyer.

Guiding Principle
On 30th of June 2019 the Registrar of the DIFC Wills Service Centre issued new rules regarding the drafting of Non-Muslim Wills.

A.  General Information on DIFC Wills

I. The Registrar
The Wills Service Centre was established by Resolution No. 4 of 2014 issued by His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the President of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), and its authority re-affirmed by Dubai Law No. 15 of 2017 issued by his Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, regulating inheritance, wills and probate for non-Muslims.
As a distinct entity, the Wills Service Centre provides administrative support to the DIFC Courts Wills Registry for Non-Muslims (the ‘Registry’) where the register of DIFC Wills is held and where all probate matters and probate claims are handled.

The Wills Service Centre and the Registry together provide a system ensuring that a person’s assets will be distributed in accordance with the terms of their registered Wills.

II. DIFC Wills
Since 2014 the DIFC aleady offers Expats residing in the Emirate of Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah to plan their succession with a Will. This Will is based upon the Regulations of DIFC and gives the opportunity for Non-Muslims to opt-out of the Sharia Regulations. The Wills are drafted in English; no Arabic documents/translations are required. The DIFC offers different types of Wills:

  • Full/Mirror Will
  • Business Owner Will
  • Guardianship Will
  • Property Will
  • Financial Assets Will

For the registration of all Wills the Testator has to be 21 years old, residing in the Emirate of Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah, not being a Muslim (and never have been a Muslim). Guardianship provisions can only be set-up for children habitually residing in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah.

B.   What has changed?

In the aim to extend its services and range the DIFC implemented the following two changes in the Wills and Probate Registry Rules:
I. Wills covering UAE and world wide assets
The Rules will no longer prevent the Testator from including assets, which fall outside of Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah. It is now possible to not only include assets throughout the whole United Arab Emirates, but also worldwide. However, everyone wishing to draft a Will is recommended to seek appropriate legal advice in relation to the enforcement of a DIFC Will if including assets outside of the United Arab Emirates.
Testators who wish to register DIFC Wills only for their Dubai and/or Ras Al Khaimah Estates may continue to do so.
Guardianship Wills and guardianship provisions in a Full Will continue to be valid only for minor children who are habitual residents of either Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah.

Although the DIFC set the parameters right to draft one all-inclusive Will, covering also assets worldwide, we would recommend to treat this option with care. The enforcement of a Will from one jurisdiction in another is always connected with obstacle and in many cases, due to different regulations and cultures, not possible. This is why we also recommend the draft a Will for every country, where assets are located with corresponding reference clauses.

In our opinion, it also has to be observed how other Emirates apart from Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah will handle the enforcement or the probate of DIFC Wills. The legal framework of the Wills and Probate Registry Rules as well as the legislation on federal level between the Emirates is in place, the practical implementation is another story.

II. Witness
The Authorised Officer/Probate Director will no longer be a second Witness to any of the Will signings as of June 30, 2019. It is imperative that Testators are aware that they now need to bring two (2) Witnesses to the Will signing. Witnesses must be at least 21 years old, with a valid photo ID. Witnesses cannot be a Beneficiary or a Guardian (or a spouse of a Beneficiary or a Guardian) mentioned in the Will.

Moreover, in accordance to the existing Rules, the Wills Registry is not required to store hard copies of the registered DIFC Will though in the past the Testators could not take the hard copy with them. However, once the new Rules come into effect, Testators will have the option of taking the signed hard copy of the Wills with them once the Wills Registry has retained the electronic copy of the Will, which will be treated as the original Will. Otherwise, the Wills Registry will appropriately shred the documents after retaining the electronic copy of the DIFC Will.

C.  Is there anything I have to do, when I already have a will at the DIFC?

Testators who already have a registered DIFC Will, but would like to extend the jurisdiction to reflect assets in other Emirates or global assets, will have the opportunity to amend their Wills at no additional cost between June 30 and August 29, 2019. Please note, these appointments must be made by email (appointments@difcwills.ae) only.
If the modification appointment is made through the DIFC Will and Service Centre website there will no possibility for reimbursement of the fee paid online.
Any modifications after August 29, 2019 will result in a fee of AED 550 +VAT and must be booked online through the normal website as usual.
In case you have any questions or need any clarification we will be happy to assist you.

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