Will systems FOR ALL.
What is the DIFC Wills & Probate Registry (the Registry) and what does it offer?
Legal uncertainty regarding inheritance has always been a concern for non-Muslims in the UAE as to the legal procedure following the death of a non-Muslim, and the distribution of the deceased's assets.
The DIFC Wills and Probate Registry is a first-of-its kind service in the MENA region. It gives eligible individuals with assets in Dubai the ability to register English language wills according to the principle of testamentary freedom, meaning the freedom to dispose of their property upon death as they see fit, and in accordance with the laws of their home country.
The new service assists non-Muslim expats in registering their wills and follows a legal basis that has been drafted on the basis of Common Law principles from the Estates Act and Probate rules of the UK, and legislation of other leading Common Law jurisdictions such as Singapore and Malaysia.
This legislation gives non-Muslims legal certainty and the freedom to determine how their assets will be distributed upon their death and it builds upon existing UAE legislation.
What is the benefit of having such a registry in Dubai?
Dubai is increasingly becoming the leading hub for High Net Worth Individuals to invest their surplus capital. According to recent industry reports, Dubai is considered to be a safe haven for ultra-wealthy investors and families thanks to its world-class infrastructure, high-end lifestyle options and high return investment opportunities. TheEmirate'srealestatemarketalonesaw an eight per cent increase in investment last year, reaching AED 267 million.
Over the past ten years the country has attracted $100 million (AED 367 million) foreign direct investment. These numbers, strengthened by notable government initiatives and by the upcoming Expo 2020 clearly show the significant potential for further growth of foreign investment into Dubai.
In the past, expats would need to find alternate mechanisms to ensure their wealth and estate was transferred according to their wishes. Often, this meant transferring this wealth to foreign countries where the legislation provided them this freedom. The Registry provides non-Muslims that same freedom while retaining their capital in the UAE, contributing to the overall investment environment. This change in legislation could drive substantial growth incentivising foreign investors to keep their assets in the country by assuring them that their wealth will be in their control.
On that front, the Registry fosters economic growth and business activity while creating a mutually beneficial relationship with global investors.
How can expats protect their assets under the WPR?
To ensure complete protection of their assets, expats need to formally register their will with the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry during their lifetime.
The will appoints an executor, a party who can be either a company or person that the individual making the Will fully trusts. The executor is then responsible for administering the estate and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries listed in the Will. Expats can also appoint guardians for their minor children.
The will provides full authority to the individual to decide the order of priority of the beneficiaries, the time and the conditions of distributing the estate and any instructions they might want to leave for their family or loved ones.
For the will to be probated through the DIFC Courts, registration of a Will with the Registry is a pre-condition which works as an opt-in mechanism. An individual may modify their Will at any point during their lifetime, but the document is only given effect by a judge at the DIFC Courts after the death of the individual. It is also recommended that the will be made in consultation with a licensed legal practitioner, to advise on drafting the will and to ensure compliance with the Registry's legal basis.
What is the process of registering a will?
An eligible individual can formally register their drafted will with the DIFC WPR in a simple one-hour personal appointment which is booked online. A single will registration covering Dubai assets and guardianship costs AED 10,000. Mirror wills, meaning those that are made by a married couple, cost AED 15,000 instead of 20,000. If an expat only wishes to appoint guardians for his or her minor children, a guardianship will can be registered for AED 5,000 and AED 7,500 for mirror guardianship wills.
The structure is designed in a manner that front- front-loads the cost mostly on the individual who is registering the will. The probate cost, meaning the cost after the will comes into effect is significantly lower. A Grant of Probate is a fixed fee of AED 5,500 irrespective of the value of the estate. No inheritance tax is applicable in the UAE on assets held here.
DIFC WILLS AND PROBATE REGISTRY
The Wills and Probate Registry (The Registry) is an ancillary body of DIFC's Dispute Resolution Authority (DRA) established by Resolution No. 4 of 2014 issued by H.H. Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the President of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).
The Registry provides a simple and efficient opt--in mechanism for eligible individuals to pass on their estates via the means of registered wills, according to their wishes. While the Registry operates as a distinct entity, it is under the jurisdiction of the DIFC Courts, which handles all probate claims related to the registered wills. The rules governing the Registry reflect the spirit of UAE laws that respect the cultural and religious diversity of people working and living in the country. www.difcprobate.ae
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