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A New Wills Registry in Abu Dhabi

It has recently been reported that the Abu Dhabi government has issued a decree (“Decree”) creating a Wills and Probate Registry in Abu Dhabi (“AD Wills Registry”).

The AD Wills Registry aims to establish an institutional framework to register Wills for non-Muslims with assets in Abu Dhabi and to raise the level of legal protection over such assets.  It also seeks to allow the assets including fixed assets in particular to be protected through Wills registered with the AD Wills Registry.

Yousef Saeed Al Ibri, Undersecretary at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (“Department”), said the move was recognition of the “realistic needs” of all sectors of society in Abu Dhabi.  Further to this, Mr. Al Ibri stated: “This decision will constitute a quality leap towards enhancing the competitive position of Abu Dhabi emirate, establishing it as an ideal destination for residence and investment.

Details of the Decree are yet to be finalized and are expected to be released soon, the procedure for registration of Wills with AD Wills Registry remains to be decided.  At this point and based on the available information, the newly created AD Wills Registry is likely to be a counterpart of the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry with a lower registration cost.

As per the Department’s website: “The registry also offers flexible legal options to assist non-Muslim families in the event of the death of the father or mother; in order to protect assets and properties, which constitutes an additional factor of trust that will support Abu Dhabi’s position as a destination for foreign investments, benefiting the Emirate’s economy in general and the real estate sector and owned fixed assets in particular”.

As per the news update released by the Department, the Undersecretary of the Department further affirmed that the creation of a registry of Wills and probate for non-Muslims will contribute towards raising the degree of legal protection over assets owned by non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi. The proposed register shall do so by granting non-Muslims the right to select the method for writing of their Wills and appropriate disposal of their estate after their death.

It is worth mentioning that the regulation of the AD Wills Registry is likely to include procedures for registering wills in English language and also making the regulations available to the public in accordance with higher standards of transparency. The data might include conditions relating to the testator and other information related to the form of Wills as well as rules concerning witnesses, jurisdictions, registration process and the keeping and archiving of Wills.

The news of issuance of the Decree was released on Tuesday 23th May, 2017 and according to the Department, it is in the process of being published subject to final approvals.

We understand from our discussions with the Department that the proposed registration fee would be around AED 500 per Will which is much lower than its counterpart in Dubai, DIFC.

As further details of the Decree have not yet been released, it remains unclear what parameters will be in place for the AD Wills Registry to accept for registration of foreign drafted Wills as opposed to locally drafted Wills.  Moreover, a question arises about how a Court might treat such foreign drafted Wills.

We look forward to the creation of the Abu Dhabi Wills Registry and going forward, we would be pleased to assist our clients in drafting Wills for their Abu Dhabi assets pursuant to the above development in establishment of AD Wills Registry.

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