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Everything You Must Know About Will And Related Laws In UAE

The United Arab Emirates observes the Sharia Law on personal status and inheritance. Following the legislation, UAE Courts adhere to Sharia requirements where there is no will. It implies that if a person dies and does not leave a Will, the UAE Courts shall divide his/her property and appoint guardians in line with the principles of Sharia. Sometimes, the distribution in line with the rules of Sharia has some unanticipated repercussions on non-Muslim expats. This article discusses the recent changes made relating to the Will and further highlights upon the registration of Will in the UAE.

UAE Laws relating to Will- Position before Amendment of 2020

Sharia is the primary source of inheritance law in the UAE, and Federal Laws are based on it. The Civil Transactions Code (Federal Law No. 5 of 1985) and the Personal Status Law (Federal Law No. 28 of 2005) are the two main statutes that govern succession.

  1. According to Article 1(2) of the Personal Law, the law will apply to all UAE residents unless a non-Muslim foreign national has specific provisions based on their community, allowing the foreigner to choose their law rather than Sharia Law.
  2. On the other hand, Article 17 of the Civil Legislation states that the law in force in the testator’s state at the time of his death governs his inheritance.

The UAE’s Personal Law allows non-Muslims to write a Will and share their assets according to their wishes. However, if a foreign person dies without a will, the Civil Law and Personal Law empower the courts to divide the deceased’s possessions according to Sharia principles.

Article 17(1) of the Civil Law stipulates that the law shall govern the deceased’s inheritance in effect at the time of his death. Further, Article 17(5) of the Civil Law indicates that the UAE law Will applies to non-Muslim expatriate Wills involving property in the UAE.

Furthermore, unless a non-Muslim elects otherwise, Article 1(2) of the Personal Law stipulates that the law will apply to him. As a result, if a non-Muslim foreign national dies in the state and leaves real estate or other assets in the country, his home country law may apply, and his heirs may file a claim with the court. There is, however, a prohibition on trading with assets for property in the United Arab Emirates.

Also read this : Non-Muslim expats: How to get a will for assets in the UAE

Recent Amendment of 2020 relating to Will

President of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, signed a series of Presidential Decrees modifying the Personal Status Law, the Federal Penal Code, and the Federal Penal Procedural Law with immediate effect on November 20, 2020. These revisions show a trend away from Sharia law, rooted in the United Arab Emirates, and towards a more secular system.

New Changes made in the Civil Law

Expatriates can now deal with their estate using their home country or nationality laws, and their assets will no longer be automatically distributed as per Islamic law.

Also read: How to Ensure that Your Will is Legally Binding

What happens if a person dies without making a Will in the UAE?

The provisions of Article 17 of Federal Law No. 5 On the Civil Transactions Law of the United Arab Emirates State (as revised by Article 1 of Federal Decree-Law No. 30) clarify the position on the applicability of the law in the event of a person dies intestate (without creating a Will)It states that if the Will or the alienation act states no law, the law of the state to which the person carrying out such action belonged at the time of his death.

Provided that if the property is located within the UAE and is owned by the individual. According to UAE legislation, these properties will be handled and distributed.

You need to know : Why Should You Register a Will In Dubai | A Guide for UAE Expatriates

Why Will is Necessary and Where to Register It?

It is critical to have a sound estate plan in place to guarantee that your assets are distributed to your loved ones. Non-Muslim expats having assets in the UAE can now file Wills to ensure that their assets are passed down legally when they pass away.

Now Non-Muslims in the UAE can draft and file common law wills for their possessions. It was made possible by developments such as the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry creation (now known as DIFC Wills Service Centre) in 2015 and the Abu Dhabi Judiciary (ADJD) Non-Muslim Wills & Probates Office 2017.

You should know: About DIFC Wills for Property

How to Register a Will?

Non-Muslims can register their Will in the UAE in three ways.

  1. First, since 2010, Dubai courts have permitted wills to be attested by a notary public. It applies all over the Emirates.
  2. Secondly, Wills are recorded, and probate claims are handled through the DIFC Courts at the DIFC Wills Service, which exclusively covers assets in Dubai and Ras al Khaimah.
  3. The third option is Non-Muslim Wills & Probates Office at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department., which permits non-Muslims from all countries to file their wills and includes assets throughout the country.

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the subject. This article was made very carefully to assure accuracy. Due to the different situations, it is not intended to provide legal guidance or anticipate a specific outcome. Readers considering legal advice should consult an HHS expert attorney to guide current legislation and how to deal with their situation.

If you need any legal help in these or related situations, feel free to contact us.


Hazem Darwish

Hazem Darwish, 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. Hazem Darwish 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.