Wills and asset protection for Non-Muslim Dubai expats

by John

Dubai has long been famed for its innovation and ground breaking projects, from Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, to the Solar Park project, which will be the largest single-site solar project in the world and generate enough energy to power 800,000 homes by 2030. This innovation has extended to all areas of life and society in Dubai, most recently with the introduction to the legal services market of the Dubai International Finance Center Will or “DIFC Will” before summer.

Dubai has a population of around 2.5 million of which, around 40% are non-Muslims. The ruling family of Dubai is one of the most welcoming, accepting and forward-thinking in the region so it is no wonder why so many expats have moved and made their homes in Dubai and the UAE.

It must be remembered and respected that this is still an Islamic country and the governing law is Sharia. In terms of personal legal matters for example, there are many laws which will appear strange to non-Muslim cultures. It must also be remembered that expats help enrich society and bring business and tourism to the region.

It is true that many expats stay for a few years and then return to their home countries. It is also true that many expats fall in love with Dubai and in later life want to live between their home countries as well as Dubai. Such are the improvements in transport links between Dubai and the rest of the world that this is becoming an ever increasing reality for many, not just the super-rich. The majority of expats are able to accumulate substantial assets while working here with many investing in the local property market.

Under Sharia law a male heir is entitled to a greater share than his female sibling. A similar law does not exist in the majority of non-Muslim legal systems. The Dubai government in order to dispel any worries or uncertainties non-Muslim expats might have, introduced the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry or “DIFC WPR” to alleviate any concerns and allow non-Muslim Testators the opportunity to register common law based DIFC Wills to protect interests, avoid uncertainties and reduce the risk of disputes between beneficiaries when the issue of probate and division of the estate would eventually arise.

Even in its infancy with just over one year since its inception, the DIFC WPR has had more than 1,000 non-Muslim expats register their Wills, with thousands more seeking legal assistance to take advantage of this new legal instrument and make sure they have correctly drafted Wills.

On a macro-scale much can be learnt by the world at large from the methods and practices the government of Dubai are implementing and the DIFC Will perfectly illustrates its innovation in encouraging the peaceful and beneficial co-existence of Muslims and non-Muslims living together in Dubai as well as the rest of the UAE.

For more information contact John Norton, approved DIFC wills draftsman, john@yungo.ae