We have set out below some of the frequently asked questions we receive.
Everybody's requirements are different so if you have additional questions that are not covered below or you require further information, please contact us today and we will be able to assist.
1. What is a Will?
A Will is an incredibly important document that will help protect your assets and your family following your death.
Following your death, a Will sets out how your assets will be distributed and who should be appointed as guardians of your children.
2. Why do I need a Will in UAE?
If you are a non-Muslim expatriate in the UAE and you do not have a Will, the default position in the UAE is for your assets to be distributed in accordance with Sharia law.
This can result in your assets being distributed to family members in a way that you do not want or intend. This is particularly relevant to a wife who may only be entitled to receive 1/8th of her husband’s assets – this is quite different from many expatriates’ home country laws and might not reflect the deceased’s wishes.
The process for getting access to your assets and distributing them following your death will take a lot longer if you do not have a Will in place in the UAE.
In relation to the guardianship of your children:
if the father dies, the mother is not always automatically granted guardianship of your children; and
if both parents die at the same time, the UAE courts will decide who will be given custody of your children after your death.
It is therefore important you put in place a UAE Will to ensure your wishes are properly taken into account following your death and your assets and family are protected.
3. Does my spouse need a Will as well?
If you have children or if your spouse has any assets in the UAE, then your spouse should also have a Will.
We can prepare what is known as “Mirror Wills”. Mirror Wills are two separate Wills for married couples which will almost be identical or will be very similar.
Preparing Mirror Wills is also more cost efficient as we will provide a discounted rate to prepare both Wills. You will also pay less registration fees if you register the Mirror Wills with the DIFC Wills Service Centre.
4. What does a typical Will normally include?
A Will specifies how all of your assets are to be distributed following your death. A Will typically includes the following:
real estate interests (e.g. family home, holiday home etc.)
cash or money in bank accounts
all moveable assets (e.g. vehicles, jewellery, household items, personal belongings etc.)
investments or shares in companies, funds etc.
A Will can also specify who should be appointed as the guardian(s) of your children.
5. Do I need to list out all of my assets in a Will?
No. It is advisable not to list all of your assets in your Will. Your assets will change throughout your lifetime and listing your assets may result in assets not being covered by your Will.
We will draft your Will so that all of your assets in the UAE are included and distributed in accordance with your wishes.
If you want to gift someone a specific item, then this should be clearly stated in your Will.
6. Where should I register my Will?
The two options for non-Muslim expatriates in the UAE are the DIFC Wills Service Centre and the Abu Dhabi Wills Registry. The best place for you to register your Will depends on the location of your assets in the UAE and your personal preferences.
If you do not have any assets in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah then your only choice is to register your Will at the Abu Dhabi Wills Registry.
If you do have assets in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah then you have the option to choose the registry at which to register your Will. Each registry has its benefits over the other registry (please the FAQs below for more details).
There is also a difference in the registration fees charged by each registry. The registration fees of the DIFC Wills Service Centre are more expensive than the registration fees of the Abu Dhabi Will Registry (please see the FAQ below for more details of the registration fees).
The advantages and disadvantages of each registry will differ from person to person. The best option for you will depend on your personal circumstances and requirements. Our legal professionals will discuss these with you so you can decide which option is best for you.
7. What is the DIFC Wills Services Centre?
The DIFC Wills Service Centre (formerly known as DIFC Wills & Probate Registry) has been set up specifically to cater for non-Muslims owning assets in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah.
The benefits of registering a Will with the DIFC Wills Service Centre include:
the registration will give you assurance on the distribution of movable and immovable assets as per your wishes
the legal regime is based on English law and is clear and unambiguous
all documents and communications are conducted in English (compared to the Abu Dhabi Wills Registry which requires all documents to be translated into Arabic)
the probate process is simpler, quicker and cheaper than other court processes in the UAE
8. What is the Abu Dhabi Wills Registry?
The Abu Dhabi Wills Registry was established in 2017 to provide a mechanism for the registration of Wills for non-Muslim expatriates in the UAE.
The benefits of registering a Will with the Abu Dhabi Wills Registry include:
the Abu Dhabi Wills Registry offers freedom of testamentary disposition which means that you are allowed to bequeath their assets to whom they wish (subject to the application of the laws of your home country)
there is no limitation on locality of assets and assets located in any of the seven Emirates and even outside UAE may be protected under the Wills registered with the Abu Dhabi Wills Registry
the registration fees for registering a Will are significantly less than at the DIFC Wills Service Centre (see FAQ below for more details)
9. How much does it cost to prepare and register a Will?
The cost to prepare and register your Will varies depending on the complexity of your Will and whether your Will is registered with the DIFC Wills Service Centre or the Abu Dhabi Wills Registry.
Preparation of your Will by Access Legal
Generally, we will charge you between AED2,000 to AED5,000 to prepare your Will in accordance with your instructions. The fee will depend on the complexity of your Will. If you require Mirror Wills to be prepared (see FAQ above for details on Mirror Wills) we will prepare the Wills at a discounted price.
Registration of your Will
The registration fees for your Will depends on whether you register your Will at the DIFC Wills Service Centre or the Abu Dhabi Wills Registry.
The Abu Dhabi Wills Registry is a flat fee regardless of the content of your Will. The registration fees for the DIFC Wills Service Centre varies depending on the type of Will you are registering.
A summary of the different registration fees is set out below.
Abu Dhabi Wills Registry: AED950 per Will*
* If you register your Will at the Abu Dhabi Wills Registry, your Will needs to be translated into Arabic. The fees for translation will be between AED500 to AED1,000 depending on the length of your Will
10. How long does it take to prepare and register a Will?
Once we have received all of the information and documentation we require from you, we will prepare your Will within 3 to 5 working days. We can accelerate this timeline if necessary for an additional fee.
Once you are happy with the Will we will arrange for a legal translation to be prepared (if applicable) and then assist you with the registration of your Will either at the DIFC Wills Service Centre or the Abu Dhabi Wills Registry.
11. Are my bank accounts automatically frozen when I die?
Yes. All bank accounts in the UAE are frozen on your death (including any joint bank accounts). Your bank accounts will be frozen until the court has provided an order in relation to the distribution of your assets.
This is a good reason to ensure you have a UAE Will in place. Having a UAE Will does not prevent bank accounts being frozen, but it does make it quicker for your family to gain access to the bank accounts following your death.
12. I already have a non-UAE Will – do I still need to have a Will in the UAE?
Yes. Without a registered Will in the UAE, the UAE Courts will by default apply Sharia law. This can be avoided through an application being made by the persons dealing with your estate to the UAE Court requesting that your assets to be treated in accordance with the laws of your home country. However, this is often a long and frustrating process.
Having a UAE registered Will makes the process of distributing your assets much quicker.
13. Is it possible for me to change and/or cancel my Will in the UAE?
Yes. You can change your Will at any time during your lifetime. The best way to make changes is to prepare and sign a new Will. Your new Will should revoke all previous Wills you have made.
You can also revoke any Will you have made at any time in your lifetime.
14. What is probate?
Probate is the legal process through which the court approves how your assets are distributed following your death. If you have a Will in place, the court should interpret the Will and distribute your assets in accordance with your wishes.