Published January 2017
30th April 2015 saw the launch of the DIFC’s (Dubai International Financial Centre’s) Wills & Probate Registry (“the WPR”). This landmark step taken by the leadership of Dubai gives the right to both resident and non-resident non-Muslims with assets in the Emirate of Dubai to devolve their Dubai estate free from the application of Islamic Sharia’ah inheritance principles. A non-Muslim is therefore given the freedom to devolve their Dubai assets freely. In essence the WPR has created an option for non-Muslims to avoid forced heirship principles under Sharia’ah.
The WPR also enables Dubai resident non-Muslims to draw up specific guardianship provisions appointing interim guardians for their children under the age of 21, in the event that they predecease their children.
Additionally, in November 2016, the WPR agreed an extension to the original MOU which it signed with the Dubai Land Department in 2015, which now outlines specific steps for exchanging data and information in relation to real estate transfers made pursuant to a WPR Will, with the sole aim of making the transfer of title of real estate easier post death. In fact, it also enables Executors of a WPR Will to effectively block an invalid transfer of real estate should it fall foul of the Probate Order granted by the WPR. Since its inception, many non-Muslims have utilised the WPR to execute Wills and Guardianship Wills.
Originally the protective measures were limited to assets physically located within the Emirate of Dubai, however on 12th December 2016, the jurisdiction was extended to include all assets physically located in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah; another popular Emirate amongst foreigners for owning real estate and incorporating free zone companies. A formal practice direction is expected shortly which will cover all aspects of this particular extension.
A survey conducted by the WPR in November 2016 predicted a 30% increase in the number of wills registered at the WPR in 2017.
As at the end of January 2017 approximately 2000 WPR Wills had been registered, with 3 Grants of Probate issued and 3 applications for Grants currently in process
The WPR have issued practice directions and guidelines so as to ensure that all wills drawn up in accordance with the WPR Rules are fully compliant and valid. To ensure compliance a qualified and WPR registered draftsman must be instructed by the Testator. Once a draft will has been prepared, the draftsman will send it to the WPR for approval. The draftsman will also need to accompany the Testator to the WPR where the Will shall be executed in person. Such measures not only ensure that a Will is valid and compliant, but it also reduces the scope of challenges to the validity of the Will at a later date.
AC&H’s DIFC WPR Accreditation
AC&H is pleased to announce that Sunita Singh-Dalal, Partner is officially accredited by the WPR as one of the 49 Registered Wills Draftsmen. Should you or your clients wish to have a WPR compliant Will (with or without Guardianship provisions), please contact Sunita who would be glad to advise and assist. Sunita would also be able to work in conjunction with your current personal wealth advisers and estate planners to ensure that any assets owned by you in the Emirates of Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah can be made subject to a WPR Will thereby creating peace of mind for your family and ensuring an orderly devolution of your local estate. Examples of assets that can be included in your WPR Will range from bank accounts, cars, art, jewelry, valuable items such as watches, bonds, shares, property and shares in onshore companies or businesses, as well as shares of free zone companies situated in the Emirate of Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah (such as RAKIA, JAFZA, DAFZA, DMCC, DCCA) etc.
For those non-Muslims who are resident in Dubai with young children (under the age of 21), but without assets or property in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah, a WPR Guardianship Will can still be executed with clearly drafted interim guardianship provisions to protect your children in the event of your death.
If you are interested in discussing the content of this article, please contact: Sunita Singh-Dalal, Partner (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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