Writing a will in Abu Dhabi

After Dubai and RAK, Abu Dhabi now allows wills in English for non-Muslims

By Summit Ahuja
00:00 August 9, 2017

With advances in the UAE legislation, every emirate is now gearing up to ensure that expats are able to protect their assets. With the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) already offering services to expatriates in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, recently approved changes that allow non-Muslim expats in Abu Dhabi to determine how assets are handled upon death.

Currently, the Abu Dhabi system is not yet ready, but the government has agreed in creating wills in English for non-Muslims. These changes came into effect after decisions were made to modify the rules governing wills in Abu Dhabi.

So far, there have been no definitive means to determine the registration and execution of wills that were drafted in the UAE capital. Although laws of inheritance from an expat’s home country can be applied, this is still a very tedious process.

In the case of an eventuality, assets of the owner are frozen by default. Moreover, as per the law, all the dependent visas are cancelled by default. Also, the custody of minor children would require local judicial intervention, and most of the assets/estate would go towards covering legal fees and liabilities. Hence, it is recommended for every individual to be on an independent visa.

A legislative framework was recently introduced to avoid disputes over custody of children, passing on of estate, asset and other belongings. Earlier, in most cases, Sharia was applied and this led to all assets being frozen for a long time before being split between the heirs. Contacting all applicable heirs and beneficiaries would usually result in delay. And it would prove to be particularly arduous in case there was a conflict regarding legal heirs and natural heirs.

The new amendments allow for wills to be registered in English for a fee of Dh500. In Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, only non-Muslims currently have the option of registering their will with the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry, which will provide certainty in the case of an expat’s demise. In such a situation, all real estate will be passed on to the appointed beneficiary. All these solutions are flexible, and appropriate legal advice will provide a better understanding.

Establishing a registry of wills for non-Muslims will ensure legal protection by creating a flexible means for them to determine how their wills are written and executed posthumously. The registry will also maintain data concerning the testator, beneficiaries, witnesses and Emirates.

In Abu Dhabi, the new amendments extend to properties on Saadiyat Island, Reem Island and Yas Island. The law will encourage expats to look at Abu Dhabi as a tolerant and accepting hub of culture and commerce. Introducing this flexible new legal framework has further improved the image of Abu Dhabi as a multicultural destination.

Over the past few years, foreign investments have had a positive impact on almost all sectors of trade in Abu Dhabi. A lot of expats in different countries have made extensive investments in real estate properties across the emirate in the past several years. Foreign companies, with their branches across Abu Dhabi have brought multiple job opportunities for expats from around the world. The expansion of the real estate market has also increased the number of properties that expats are investing in.

With Abu Dhabi establishing itself as an ideal destination for business expansion, these legal reforms hope to attract a greater influx of expats. This new change in legislation seeks to protect the rights and freedoms of those belonging to varied faiths and beliefs.

It is also recommended to create two wills if you have a company in Abu Dhabi and a branch in any other emirate. This move ensures that all the assets and accounts are protected as per the law of respective emirate.