Registration of Wills

22 Apr 2022

One of the most important documents that one will ever write is a ‘Will’. Will is a legal document, which states to whom the assets, properties or guardianship of children shall be transferred on their demise. In UAE, registration of Will is essential for a non-Muslim expat for the very reason that on the absence of such Will, the assets, properties and guardianship of children will be governed by the Sharia Laws. Let’s get an overview of the options and types of Will registration available within the United Arab Emirates. 


Registration of Wills in Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) Eligibility to register a will at DIFC Courts:


  1. The person applying for registration of the Wills, should be a non-Muslim and also should have never been a Muslim;
  2. The person applying for Wills should have attained the age of twenty-one (21) years or more;
  3. The person applying for Wills should own assets within the United Arab Emirates (UAE),
  4. A person can apply a guardianship Will for children who have been residents of the UAE consistently.


The person who meets the above criteria may apply with legal assistance for the registration of the Wills at the DIFC Courts Wills Registry (the ‘Registry’) as per the requirements. 


The DIFC provides for registration of five kinds of Wills, namely:

  1. Guardianship Will,
  2. Property Will,
  3. Business Owners Will,
  4. Financial Assets Will; and
  5. Full Will.


The DIFC’s jurisdiction is only limited to assets located within Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah. The benefit of registering your Will with the DIFC Courts is that you may register your Will in English, whereas in other jurisdictions it is mandatory to register the Will either in Arabic or Bilingual. Before the registration of the Wills at the Registry, pre-registration checks are done by the appointment at the DIFC Courts Wills Service, which are located at several places. 


Guardianship Wills:

This specific Will allows you to ensure that your children are in safe hands on your sudden demise. The DIFC Courts Wills and Probate Registry Rules provide all the requirements to apply for a guardianship Will. As per the rules of the DIFC Courts, under the Guardianship Will, you can only apply for the appointment of guardians for your children, but, if you wish to include even the distribution of your assets as well, it is suggested that you apply for a Full Will. On your demise, the DIFC Courts will direct both ‘Interim Guardianship Orders’ and ‘Permanent Guardianship Orders’ in line with rules of the DIFC Courts Will. It is necessary that the nominated guardians meet all the requirements of the rules of the DIFC Courts Will and also such appointment must not be in contradiction to the UAE public policy. There are two types of Guardianship Wills available as per your requirements, if you are a single parent, you may consider applying for the Single Guardianship Will and if both the parents wish to apply for Guardianship Will, then you may consider applying for Mirror Wills. 


Full Will: 

This kind of Will governs the distribution of all your assets, along with a provision for guardianship. Schedule 1 of the DIFC Courts Wills and Probate Registry Rules provides all the necessary provisions for a Full Will. This kind of Will is recommended where you own more than five (5) real estate properties or a wide variety of assets. Based upon your marital status, you can either apply for a Single Will if you are unmarried and a Mirror Will, if you are married. 


Property Will:

The Property Will is limited to only your real estate property. The DIFC Courts Wills Service also has an option to submit an application for registration of the properties online (Property Will Portal). The Property Will can be applied for up to five (5) real estate properties or a share in up to (5) real estate properties. Based upon your marital status, you may either choose to apply for a Single Will or Mirror Will. The pre-registration check will be conducted virtually. 


Business Owners Will: 

This specific will is for free zones and UAE onshore company shares. The Business Owners Will shall include up to five (5) separate shareholdings in any free zone or UAE onshore company situated within the UAE. The eligibility to apply for this will is that the company where your shares are being held must be incorporated in the UAE as per the UAE Federal Law. The DIFC Court Wills Service provides for an online option to submit the registration for this will. Based upon your marital status, you may either choose for a Single Will or Mirror Will. 


Financial Assets Will: 

This specific bill includes up to ten (10) separate accounts or a share in up to ten (10) separate accounts, which are registered either solely in your name or jointly, provided they are legally held by the bank or brokerage firm situated in UAE. The person applying for this Will must be the exclusive beneficial owner of the movable assets held by the banks or the brokerage. The banks or brokerages should possess movable assets, like monies, publicly traded shares, stock or other securities or securities issued by any government authority. The banks where such assets are held must have been registered with a financial institution which is governed by the Central Bank of UAE and where it’s a brokerage firm, it must have been registered with a financial institution governed by the Emirates Securities and Commodities Authority. This can also be applied online. 


Registration of Wills at Abu Dhabi: 

The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD), has formed a special entity, ADJD Wills Registry for non-Muslims expats, for the purpose of registration of Wills and to handle all the matters related to the probation of Wills under ADJD. ADJD Wills Registry welcomes any of the seven Emirates to apply for the registration of Wills. The ADJD Wills Registry is based on the principle of testamentary disposition, whereby the Will maker, also called as the Testator, is bestowed with the right to distribute their assets to the person of their choice. It also covers the guardianship of minor children, whereby the testator can either appoint a permanent or temporary guardian to take care of the children in the event of their demise. It is mandatory for the testator to attend in person at the appointment of registration. 


The eligibilities to apply under ADJD Wills Registry:

  • The person applying for the Will must be a non-Muslim;
  • The Testator, Executors, Trustees and the Witnesses must have attained the legal age of twenty-one years or more;
  • Wills must be drafted in Arabic and where it is drafted in any other language, shall be translated by a sworn Arabic translated and signed at the AD Registry in Arabic or bilingual form.


Registration of Will in Dubai Courts:


The eligibility to apply Will under the Dubai Courts:

  • The person applying must be a non-Muslim;
  • The person must have reached the legal age of twenty-one years;
  • The wills must be translated in Arabic and where the Wills are in other languages, it shall be translated into Arabic by a sworn Arabic translator and shall be notarized at the Dubai Notary Public in Arabic or bilingual form.


Under the Dubai Courts, the assets for which a Will can be initiated includes, real estate property, monies, investment accounts, insurance policy proceeds, valuable jewelry, cars, bank accounts, personal or other household belongings which are legally owned by the testator. As a general rule, a non-Muslim is governed by the UAE Federal Laws as to the inheritance and succession, especially if the assets are located in UAE. Non-Muslims, may also execute their Wills as per the Laws of their home country. However, for such Wills to be accepted by the local courts, they must be registered with the Will Registries at Dubai and Abu Dhabi or they will be deemed as unregistered Wills. The Federal Law Number 15 of 2017, governing the Inheritance, Wills and Probate for non-Muslims has established a Wills and Probate Registry with Dubai Courts (Dubai Courts Wills Registry) for the purpose of non-Muslims expats to register their Wills and get notarized with Dubai Notary Public for the purpose of executing their Wills, whether within or outside the state.


Recently, the UAE Government has introduced some new amendments to the Personal Status Laws. As per the new changes, the matters regarding the inheritance shall be dealt as per the nationality of the deceased. Matters concerning Wills also shall be dealt according to the law of the country as specified in the Will Documents or where there is no mention of which law, then as per the law of the country to which the deceased is national at the time of death. The matters involving real estate owned in the UAE, shall be governed by the UAE Laws.