Super high-flying lawyer and mama of 2, Alexandra Tribe talks to us about making a Will in Dubai
We have all no doubt heard the radio adverts and read the dramatic editorials on Wills in the UAE; in my view these are largely scaremongering. If you are an expat and your assets are mostly overseas, for example in England, it may not be proportionate to incur the costs of a Will in the UAE. A Will in your home country would be sufficient to cover the assets back home (and a Will in England for example can be prepared simply for as little as £100).
It is sensible to have a Will in the UAE if you own property here, or hold significant sums of money in bank accounts in the UAE. For non-Muslim expatriates, the DIFC Will process is most appropriate. The system for the registration of Wills at the DIFC has been specifically designed for non-Muslim expats to protect assets in the UAE; it is clear and straightforward. In the unlikely event of the death of a loved one in the UAE (which may result in their accounts being frozen), it is sensible to make sure that you have access to cash or an account in your own name to pay for interim expenses and travel costs.
One of the main reasons to register your Will at the DIFC is to avoid your assets being distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules under Sharia Law, which could mean, for example that your spouse would not inherit all of your estate. A DIFC Will can ensure that those you wish to inherit your assets once you die will actually get them. You can also nominate executors of your choice to deal with the distribution of your estate in the certain knowledge that they will comply with your wishes. You can nominate your preferred guardian for your children to avoid disagreements or family upset at a later date. You can make small personal gifts to your chosen ones, take advantage of tax saving strategies and specify your funeral arrangements.
You can set out who you would like to look after your children in your Will but you can also have a separate guardianship agreement to set out who would look after your children in the unfortunate event that both you and your spouse die before they reach 18 years old. The agreement can set out who would look after them on a temporary and / or permanent basis.
In order to register a Will, the testator does not need to be a resident of the UAE but he / she must have assets either in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah. The Testator will need to attend the Wills & Probate Registry in the DIFC to register their Will in person. The Will or Guardianship Agreement must be written in English and the Testator must be fluent in English as they must understand the terms and provisions of the Will. No translations are allowed to be registered at the DIFC. The Testator must be over 21 years old and not of Muslim faith. The Wills draftsman must meet the Testator alone to assess whether he / she has the required testamentary intention and mental capacity, and is not subject to any duress or undue influence to make a Will.
One final point to note is that on marriage (or remarriage) your old Will is automatically revoked. If you die without making a new Will, your estate will pass to a list of relatives specified by law (under the intestacy rules). On a divorce, any gift in your old Will to your ex-spouse is cancelled as is his /her appointment as Executor but the rest of the Will stands.