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Legal Corner: The Importance of Filing for a Will in Dubai

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Signing Will in Dubai

Life in Dubai is good.

Not just the beach, and the sunshine, and the social life, but also in the way our city allows expats to build up tax-free assets, an opportunity not available in our home countries.

We buy homes, cars and, especially, we invest in our own businesses. For many people in DMCC, their wealth lies in the value of the companies they have painstakingly constructed over so many years.

It all works well - until unexpected change comes along. We are all mortal, and suddenly our dependents might need to dig out a Will that was prepared years earlier – if there is one at all. There’s a lot at stake, for our families, our children and often our grandchildren.

At that point, we need the peace of mind that our last wishes for the distribution of our hard-earned wealth will be respected.  

Such a Will is now available through the DIFC Wills Service.

The UAE is a sharia law jurisdiction, which prescribes very specifically how a person’s assets will be dispersed, in line with long-established Islamic tenets.

For example, a surviving wife with children will receive one eighth of their husband’s estate. A surviving husband with children receives one quarter of his wife’s. This calculator tells you more .

Distribution of assets by sharia law works for millions of families across the world, but it might not work for you.

Increasingly, foreign residents in Dubai are turning to the DIFC Wills Service to secure their families’ future.  

The Service is part of the DIFC Courts, which operates an English-language Common Law-based legal jurisdiction within the Dubai International Financial Centre.

The Wills Service offers five types of Will, registered with the DIFC Courts, to non-Muslims investing and working in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah. They allow assets to be distributed according to personal choice, covering:

  • Free Zone Companies
  • Financial Assets
  • Property
  • Guardianship
  • All assets, with a Full Will

For DMCC shareholders the Free Zone Company Will is probably the most relevant. It can encompass up to five separate shareholdings in all Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah free zone businesses.

Succession planning, including a Will ensuring that shareholders’ wishes will be respected after death, is a key part of any company strategy. Shareholders without a Will, or with a Will that is not recognised within the UAE, are dangerously exposed.

Company bank accounts may be frozen for lengthy periods, raising the threat that creditors cannot be paid even if there is cash in the bank – a danger to a company’s very existence.

Alternatively, missing passwords and identity recognition systems may prevent access to critical IT infrastructure.

In the longer-term the sudden absence of a key shareholder, without clear succession planning in place, is likely to undermine a company’s operations.

Unlike other jurisdictions, the UAE does not practise ‘right of survivorship’ where property passes automatically to a surviving joint owner on the death of the other.

  • For shareholders, a well thought-out business succession plan should include the following:
  • Distribution of shares in the event of a shareholder death
  • Clear procedures allowing day-to-day operations to continue
  • Designation of authorised signatories for payments and trade licence renewals
  • Guaranteed funding to ensure business continuity.

Particularly vulnerable may be family-owned companies. Average global business statistics estimate that fewer than 30 percent of family businesses survive to the second generation; fewer than 12 percent to the third; and only 3 percent to the fourth.

Another option for DMCC members is the Financial Assets Will. This encompasses up to ten separate bank or brokerage accounts, or your shares in such accounts. They can be held in your sole name, or in joint names, as long as the bank or brokerage branch is in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah.

This Will covers moveable assets such as money, tradeable shares, stocks and government securities.

The other Wills available are self-explanatory. Guardianship covers the care of your children, allowing you to entrust them to the care of a dependable friend or relative, in either interim or permanent arrangements. Property Wills cover up to five properties in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah.

And of course, Full Wills can include everything, including guardianship. The DIFC Wills Service offers Single Wills covering one person or Mirror Wills, allowing spouses to transfer assets from one to the other.

The DIFC Wills Service are currently offering DMCC members a discount of up to AED 375 until May 1. The fees for services differ by type of Will – more details on We also have attractive payment terms available. Special deals mean that UAE banks can offer interest-free payments, over up to 12 months.

For the Free Zone Wills, Financial Asset Wills and Property Wills, the whole process can be completed online, following an easy step-by-step template. As your circumstances change, such as when shareholdings are transferred or amended, registered DIFC Wills can be updated as many times as desired for a small fee.

If you are interested in making a Will then there is plenty of information available at or alternatively you can email with any specific questions you may have.

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