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| 3 minutes read

Succession planning for non-Muslims with UAE assets

Planning for the inevitable has become much easier in recent years for non-Muslim expats with assets located in the UAE. In particular, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Wills have become a useful planning tool for non-Muslim expats who want certainty over succession of their UAE assets and want to avoid them being subject to local court procedures and statutory succession rules.

DIFC Wills also allow you to provide for temporary and permanent guardianship for minor children who are habitually resident in Dubai; guardianship provisions can be included in a standard DIFC Will or a specific DIFC Guardianship Will.

What happens if I have UAE assets but don’t make a Will?

If you have UAE assets and do not make a valid Will dealing with those assets, the succession of your UAE assets will depend on whether you are Muslim or non-Muslim.

If you are non-Muslim, your UAE assets will pass in accordance with statutory rules; for example, if you are a non-Muslim and die intestate resident in Dubai (being married with children at the time of passing), half of your estate would pass to your spouse and the other half of your estate would be divided between your children equally.

If you are Muslim, your UAE assets will pass in accordance with Shariah law. Under Shariah law, certain relatives are entitled to specific proportions of a deceased's estate. For example, a surviving wife (who has children) would be entitled to 1/8th of her deceased husband's estate and a surviving husband (who has children) would be entitled to ¼ of his deceased's wife estate. The remainder of their estate would be inherited by other family members in accordance with Shariah law.

What if I already have a Will in place elsewhere?

If you are a non-Muslim expat with assets in the UAE and you make a Will in another country (for example, in England) the UAE courts have discretion to decide whether to uphold that Will. Typically, in the immediate period following death, the deceased individual's UAE assets would be 'frozen' until the UAE courts decide whether to uphold the foreign Will. This creates unnecessary uncertainty and significant delay in the administration of the deceased's UAE estate. For this reason we would recommend that non-Muslim expats should put a separate DIFC Will in place. 

Making a DIFC Will

By putting in place a Will (in English) under the jurisdiction of the DIFC non-Muslim expats with UAE assets can guarantee that their UAE assets will pass to their desired heirs.

To make a DIFC Will you must be a non-Muslim who has never been a Muslim, be over 21 years old, and the Will has to be signed in accordance with DIFC requirements.

Importantly, you do not have to be resident in Dubai to put in place a DIFC Will and there is no requirement for your executors or guardians, as appointed in your Will, to be resident in Dubai.

What can my DIFC Will cover?

DIFC Wills are typically used to govern succession of a non-Muslim individual's UAE assets only. In theory, a DIFC Will could cover your worldwide assets (including real estate, cash, personal possessions, bank accounts and investments anywhere in the world). However, in practice, you should seek legal advice in the jurisdictions where you hold assets to ascertain whether a DIFC Will would be sufficient to govern succession to your non-UAE assets. We generally recommend that DIFC Wills should be limited to covering assets situated in the UAE. 

If, after making a DIFC Will, you are making another Will elsewhere in the world ensure you take appropriate legal advice to make sure the new Will does not accidentally invalidate your DIFC Will.

Types of Will

There are various different types of specific DIFC Wills to suit an individual's personal circumstances (such as, a Financial Assets Will, a Business Owners Will and a Guardianship Will). 

Typically, our Private Wealth team draft and file Full Wills for clients as these are comprehensive documents covering all UAE assets.

How to sign and file a DIFC Will

The signature and filing of a DIFC Will is a straightforward, modern process.

Currently, all DIFC Wills are signed and filed using an online videoconference facility which is accessed through the DIFC Courts and Wills Service website. You will require both a PC and a smartphone in order to complete the Will signing (for security purposes) and two witnesses will be required to virtually attend the meeting with you (which we can provide). 

Once the signing process is complete, the signed Will is then uploaded onto the DIFC Courts and Wills Service Registry and the signed Will can be downloaded at a later date.

How can we help?

Our Private Wealth team can advise you on putting a DIFC Will in place (in addition to your wider international wealth and succession planning). To find out more about how we can help, please contact a member of our team.


private wealth, private client, private client tax