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Dubai issues Law Number 15 of 2017 concerning inheritance, wills, and probate for non-Muslims

12 November 2017His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum has implemented Law Number 15 of 2017 on inheritance, wills, and probate for non-Muslims living and working in the Emirate of Dubai (the Law). The law affirms that foreign non-Muslims expats can now register wills in English by virtue of internationally recognized Common Law.

The law which is applied to wills and assets of non-Muslims in Dubai and Dubai International Financial Centre (the DIFC) creates a clear legal framework where non-Muslims can create wills according to their choice of law. Thus, the Law has facilitated the formation of a “Non-Muslim Wills and Probate Registry (the Registry)” in both Dubai and DIFC courts. Subsequently, both the courts are obliged to make rules and regulations for the Registry.

The Registry will empower non-Muslims with assets in Dubai to have the choice to sidestep Sharia and will enable their estates to apply the legitimate system of their choice. It will likewise offer flexible legal decisions, where beforehand there was inflexibility, to help non-Muslim families in case of the demise of one of the guardians. The new legal framework will protect their intentions and will facilitate a procedure that otherwise was lengthy and complicated. Considering the fast growth in non-Emirati properties in Dubai and UAE, the new law has the capacity to guarantee that the assets are passed on to their relatives without any dispute.

The Law will fill in the gap between the legislative framework, as earlier there was no specific mechanism for registering wills of non-Muslims in the emirate and the only recourse was to file a request in their home country to be in line with Federal Law Number 28 of 2005 on Personal Status. Otherwise, the assets would be disbursed in accordance with Sharia law based on fixed share allocation system. 

Know the Law

Will is defined under Article 1 (8) of the Law as a legal document by which the person or the testator expresses their wish as to how his property or legacy is going to be distributed to the executor post his death. Whereas, legacy is defined in Article 1(9) of the Law as all the property or money left by the testator. Article 1 (11) of the Law defines executor as the natural or juridical person appointed by the testator to execute the will either in the will document itself or through an independent document provided by the competent court. The law also defines the estate manager under Article 1 (11) as the person who manages the estate under the supervision of the competent court.

As outlined in Article 2 of the Law, the provisions strictly apply to everyone except Muslims. There are several cases mentioned under Article 3 of the Law where it will apply to legacies, if not to any person. 

  1. If the will or inheritance is related to a property situated in Dubai;
  2. If the estate is real or moveable;
  3. If the provision in the applicable foreign law is contrary to the public order in Dubai;
  4. If testator chooses this Law to be the governing law of his will.

Subsequently, Article 9 of the law imposes specific terms and conditions on the testator as to when can he register the will such as if the property or the money is in his name if he is above 21 years of age if he is not otherwise restricted by law to register will under this law.

In accordance with the provisions of the law, the register of non-Muslims will be set up in both the Dubai Courts and the DIFC Courts. The format of the register, the statements and the procedure for registration will be issued by President of Dubai Courts and the Courts of DIFC. The provision of the law further includes the prerequisites in the registering the assets of non-Muslims, the conditions for the legitimacy of the will and the introduction of new will in opposition to the principal decree must be recorded in the registry.

In cases of multiple wills, the recent one will be recorded in the Registry will be taken into consideration as the last and final will of the deceased. If in case, none of the wills are registered, all the wills be considered and in cases of conflict, the relevant court will adjudicate upon the matter.

The law obliges the executor to pay necessary expenses to the relevant court and the people entitled under the will or the creditors, post determining such expenses from a competent court. The executor shall thereafter publish the execution of the will in two local daily newspapers in order to enable creditors or holders of rights to seek their claim within ninety (90) days from the date of publication, post obtaining written consent from the competent court. The Law outlines the functions of the executor of the will, which includes but is not limited to selling any part of the assets of the cost of saving the property is higher than its original value, post obtaining written approval from the competent court.

Article 16 of the Law simultaneously stipulates obligations of the trustee such as management of funds, maintaining restrictions and procedures for implementation of will in regular and effective manner, to not disclose any information or data to the third party, to oblige with any order passed by the relevant court.

The law further stipulates the tasks and responsibilities of the estate manager under Article 23. The competent court may also upon the request of the estate manager or one of the heirs, pass a judgment concerning the distribution of the estate to the prescribed heirs and may post allocation of the part of the estate to pay-off its liabilities by transfer of one or more share of the heirs or a part thereof.

According to the Article 23 of the Law, one or more director of an estate can be appointed by the competent court, whether the heir or any other person as agreed upon, to carry out specific tasks mentioned by the court. If the owner fails to manage the estate, a group of persons shall be deemed to have the right under the law, to continue the management of the estate, provided that the manager of the estate, in case of replacement, within sixty (60) days submits a report containing a details explanation of his business, all of which were implemented and should also include the financial statements relating to inheritance.

At last Article 36 of the law clarifies that any provision in any other legislation will stand void to the extent it contradicts the provisions of this Law. Till now, expats in the emirate can see a cognizant lawful structure being framed.

Thus, it is advised to seek legal advice from our Lawyers in Dubai before preparing a will in accordance with the new Law in Dubai or DIFC.