Published August, 2019
Since the formation of Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Wills Service Centre (DIFC Wills Centre) in 2014, the DIFC Courts have envisaged a platform that adequately safeguards the interests of non-Muslim testators and their assets in the Emirates of Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, UAE.
As of 30th June, 2019, the DIFC Wills Centre has widened its horizons and reformed the manner in which it regulates the protection of assets, by the coming into force of the Dispute Resolution Authority Order No. 3 of 2019. We have outlined below, a compendium of the amendments documented in the improved DIFC Wills and Probate Registry Rules (New DIFC WPR Rules).
Unlike the former position, DIFC Wills Centre now registers wills of non-Muslim which give or dispose assets of a testator located within the UAE, and anywhere in the world. The geographic barriers restricting the location of assets to the Emirates of Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, UAE is no longer applicable under rule 11 of the New DIFC WRP Rules.
However, it should be noted that:
DIFC Wills Centre also accepts the amendment of all such wills that have already been registered and whose testators request to extend the jurisdiction of their additional assets to DIFC Courts.
The New DIFC WPR Rules have also abolished the requirement of an authorised officer appointed by the DIFC Wills Centre to witness a will. Instead, a will now requires at least two (2) witnesses of the age of majority to be physically or virtually present in front of the Registrar of DIFC Courts (Registrar) at the time of execution of the will by the testator. The only renunciation to this rule is that a beneficiary, spouse of a beneficiary or a guardian, spouse of a guardian is not permitted to witness a will.
Pursuant to the amendment of rule 10 (9) the Registrar is no longer required to hold on to the hard copy of a will executed by the testator in wet ink. According to the New DIFC WPR Rules, upon the successful registration of a valid will, the Registrar will retain a copy in electronic format whereas the testator is required to keep the hard copy. That being said, the electronic format of the will saved by the Registrar shall be considered as the original will upon the testator’s death and during the subsequent disposal of his estate. In the event you already have an original will stored in hard copy at the DIFC Wills Centre, such hard copy will be available for collection from the DIFC Wills Centre until 31st December 2019. Following January 2020, all hard copies will be permanently destroyed and a certified copy of the will conserved in electronic-format by DIFC Wills Centre will be issued to the testator upon a written request being submitted to the Registrar.
This bold move by the DIFC Courts is aimed at providing flexibility to non-Muslims resident in the UAE who have assets within and outside the UAE. If a will is proposed to be executed for assets outside of the UAE, we would suggest that local jurisdiction specific advise is also sought with respect to the enforcement of the will. It is therefore advisable to draft a will which secures all your interests and intentions in one document rather than multiple documents.
If you have a registered DIFC will and are looking to amend it to cover your worldwide assets, or if you have any other related queries, do not hesitate to contact Adil Shafi, a DIFC Wills Draftsman and Partner at Anjarwalla Collins & Haidermota Legal Consultants.
Adil Shafi, Partner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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