On 11th of July 2017, His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (the “ADJD”), announced the creation of an independent Wills registry in Abu Dhabi for non-Muslims (the “AD Wills Registry”).
The detailed rules for probate of Wills are yet to be made publicly available by the AD Wills Registry. However, the AD Wills Registry has confirmed in the interim that they are able to accept the registration of Wills under the below procedural guidelines and also confirmed fees for the registration of non-Muslim Wills:
- AD Wills Registry offers freedom of testamentary disposition which means that clients are allowed to bequeath their assets to whom they wish;
- There is no limitation on locality of assets and assets located in any of the seven Emirates and even outside UAE may be protected under the Wills registered with AD Wills Registry;
- The guardianship of minor children of the testator may be covered under the Wills registered with AD Wills Registry;
- The Testator (i.e. person executing the Will) must be a non-Muslim;
- The Testator, Executors, Trustees and Witnesses must be of legal age under UAE laws i.e. 21 years or more;
- Wills not originally drafted in Arabic language must be translated into Arabic by a sworn translator and signed at the AD Wills Registry in Arabic or bilingual form;
- The Testator is required to fix a registration appointment in advance which can be done with the assistance of a registered legal practitioner;
- The Will is required to be sent to the AD Wills Registry before the scheduled appointment;
- The Will must be executed in front of an authorised officer at the AD Wills Registry;
- The Testator may take witnesses for signing of the Will but this is not necessary for registration; and
- The AD Wills Registry’s fee for registration of Wills is AED 950 per Will which must be paid online.
At the appointment for registration, the testator will only be required to present themselves for registration while all formalities including approval of draft Wills and payment of registration fees can be pre-arranged through a registered legal practitioner. Representatives from the AD Wills Registry have advised the new Abu Dhabi Judicial Department online portal for non-Muslim Wills registration will be implemented in the new year which is around the corner.
It is important to note that details of probate rules and procedures are yet to be confirmed by the relevant team at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department. Based on recent press releases, the AD Wills Registry has confirmed that more than 100 Wills have now been registered. It is clear the AD Wills Registry and its affordable pricing is an option which has been welcomed by the expat community.
For expats who have existing Wills in place which were already registered under previous regimes with the local authorities, it is understood that such registered Wills remain valid. Given the above developments, it is advisable for expats to carefully consider their succession planning objectives, estate size and location in the UAE and accordingly select the registry that best suits their needs as most recently, Dubai Government has also established a registration procedure for non-Muslim Wills in the Dubai Courts. Considering the more affordable registration fees through the AD Wills Registry and the potential benefits of registering a Will, local onshore registry developers are a truly positive development for a large majority of non-Muslim investors and residents in the UAE.
Should you wish to discuss your specific circumstances or your inheritance and Wills requirement, please get in touch with Nasser Malalla Direct Wills Department for a free initial consultation and a representative from our Wills Department will contact you to assist you.