Where there is a will, there is a way: Succession planning in the UAE

Wills as succession planning tools

Ensuring sustainability and effective succession planning at the Family level can be achieved for many UAE residents with the relatively straightforward act of having a valid will in place. It is key to note that in the UAE, for a will to take legal effect, it must be registered with the applicable government authorities.

The recent UAE developments in the domain of wills, estates and succession planning are a shining example of legal innovation born out of the ethos of respect for diversity. There are currently four available will registration options in the UAE:

  1. The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) – The emirate of Abu Dhabi established a Personal Status Court for Non-Emiratis which enables the registration of wills, relating to UAE assets only, for both Muslims (subject to meeting certain conditions) and Non-Muslims.
  2. The ADGM Notary Public and Wills Office – The ADGM created the Notary Public and Wills Office for Non-Muslims, in partnership with the ADJD in relation to the notarization of wills for ADGM-registered entities and their employees.
  3. The DIFC Courts Wills Service – The first succession solution of its kind in the Gulf, established in 2015 permitting the execution of English-language wills (including guardianship wills) for non-Muslims and assures probate through the DIFC Courts; a common-law English-language jurisdiction.
  4. The Onshore Dubai Courts – The Notary Public at the Dubai Courts allows the registration of wills and guardianship provisions.

Having a well-drafted will in place provides legal certainty for individuals of various origins who live, invest, and conduct business in the UAE, that their estate can be transferred to their loved ones, according to the individual’s own wishes, laws, traditions, and cultures. More importantly, having guardianship provisions in place for the care of children under the age of 21 is a key consideration for many expatriates residing in the UAE.

Certain families who own a more complex, high-valued estate, or who are Muslim and originate from countries with prevailing Shari’a bound succession provisions, may require a different approach to their succession planning.

Authored by: Sunita Singh-Dalal

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