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All You Need to Know About Wills in the UAE

A will is a legal document that specifies how a person wants his affairs and assets managed and/or disposed of or distributed after his demise. A well written and carefully thought out Will holds up to legal scrutiny and leaves little room for interpretation and possible disputes. It can be modified, rewritten, or revoked during the person’s lifetime.

Kinds of Wills

There are four basic types of Wills that can be drafted.

The Simple Will

As unassuming as it sounds, a simple Will covers the most important key points:

  1. Naming a person who you want to execute your will – the Executor
  2. Stipulating who will receive your assets
  3. Naming a guardian for your children, if applicable

The Joint Will

Generally used by partners or married couples, this document combines two wills in one. When one testator passes away, all his/her assets are transferred to the co-testator. When both parties die, the Executor is notified and the wishes of the deceased are carried out with regards to the distribution of assets, etc. 

The Testamentary Trust Will

This kind of Will establishes a ‘Trust’ that contains assets and puts it into the hands of a ‘Trustee’ who manages it for a ‘specified time period’. As the Trust is usually established for the benefit of either young children or mentally incapacitated individuals, the ‘specified time period’ must be stipulated in the Will. It can specify the age that the beneficiaries must reach to receive the assets or a milestone they must cross. 

The Living Will

Similar to a Special Power of Attorney, this Will details instructions for the Executor with regard to critical care of the Testator. This Will comes into effect when and if the Testator becomes too ill to make medical decisions on his own. These involve the end of life decisions and whether or not to use extraordinary means (use of a ventilator, life support equipment) to support life. 

Conditions for making a Will

By law, any resident of the UAE who is above the age of 18 and of sound mind can make a Will. It is advisable to do so with the aid and expertise of Will writing Services

How to Write a Will 

Compile Comprehensive List of Assets

This is the first and most important step when it comes to writing a Will. Assets include all possessions, whether tangible or intangible that have economic value. 

Compile List of Beneficiaries

Beneficiaries are survivors who receive the Testator’s assets when the Will comes into effect.  These can include spouses, children, relatives, friends or even organizations like charities and research foundations. 

Detail Distribution of Assets 

Put into writing which beneficiaries will receive what assets. 

Select Worthy Executor

As the Executor is the word and will of the deceased, the Testator must choose this person (or persons) with care. The Executor will not only be responsible for clearing the deceased’s debts, but also distributing his assets according to his wishes. The executor must be at least 21 years of age.

Choose Legal Counsel

It is imperative to receive a competent legal opinion on your Will. A good lawyer will cast a critical eye over the document and refine the finer points so nothing is left to chance. Since they are also involved in probate work, they can produce a document that will hold up to the Court’s scrutiny. 

7 Things You Should Know About Writing a Will

Registering a Will

Place

The three government offices that Wills can be registered in the UAE are:

Abu Dhabi Judicial Department

Although based in the capital city, Wills registered here can include assets all over the country. 

DIFC Wills Services Centre

Wills registered here can include assets in Dubai and abroad, but have to be made using the services of a DIFC approved draftsman. 

Dubai Courts

The Notary Public can register Wills here and can include assets in any part of the UAE.

Language

Unless the Will is being registered in DIFC, it must be translated to Arabic by an authorized legal translator. 

When There is No Will

Although debating who gets the prized Faberge Egg after you pass may not seem like the best way to spend your free evening, its importance simply cannot be overstated. The consequences for tardiness can be catastrophic for the survivors, more so in the case of expatriates without a Will. 

Responsibility for Minors

The UAE courts decide who receives guardianship of minors (under 18) according to local laws when expatriates pass away without a Will.

Frozen Assets

Bank accounts of the deceased are frozen, whether individual or joint. 

Dependant Visa Revoked  

The visas of all those under the sponsorship of the deceased are revoked and they are given a 30-day grace period in which to wrap up their affairs and leave the country. 

Sharia Law of Inheritance Applicable 

In the absence of a Will, the Sharia law comes into effect regardless of the religion of the deceased. The law covers the appropriation of assets and guardianship of minors.

Cumbersome Legal Processes

In the absence of a Will, contesting the automatic disposal of affairs according to the laws of the land is a long drawn out and expensive process that can take years and include multiple trips to government agencies and offices. 

Contact your local legal counsel today and secure your family’s future. As the saying goes, where there is a Will, there is away!

M. Al Khairy, LL.B. is a Senior Partner of HHS Lawyers in UAE. Practicing law for almost a decade, he has in-depth knowledge on UAE legislation with particular expertise on legal drafting, contract drafting, labor disputes, family law, and regulatory compliance for business organizations. Al Khairy also provides counsel on legal rights and obligations in the UAE to clients, including individuals and businesses subject to investigation or prosecution under Criminal Law by major regulators. Read more