Abu Dhabi Wills

The Abu Dhabi courts Judicial Department have recently launched a new initiative to allow non-Muslim expats a specialized channel through which they may register their Wills. This initiative is a result of the directives provided by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan to meet the needs of the expat community. The idea is to provide an option for non-Muslims with assets in Abu Dhabi and/or children residing in Abu Dhabi to opt out of the Sharia Law and to document their alternative wishes.In addition to the attraction of testamentary freedom, the courts hope to create a streamlined procedural systemfor expats to register their Wills to go through a smooth probate process by implementing the necessary procedural mechanisms.

In the alternative if you do not register a Will and you are an individual who has assets in Abu Dhabi or have children residing there, then in the event of a death, Sharia law would apply automatically, regardless of your religion or nationality.  In other words, the local courts will distribute your estate and appoint guardians according to Sharia Law principles.  That being said, it is critical to be aware of the sharia law implications, which may be very different than an expat’s intentions.  For example, for a wife who has children, the maximum that wife can inherit upon the death of her husband, is 1/8th of her husband’s assets. A husband in the same position can inherit a maximum of ¼ of his wife’s assets.  Furthermore, joint assets do not get passed onto the survivor.  Instead, each joint owner is viewed as owning 50% of the asset, and the other 50% will be passed onto the deceased’s family members in the respective sharia law portions.  When it comes to guardianship, the Sharia Law principles regarding guardianship of bereaved children importantly state that on the death of the children’s Father, the Mother has no automatic entitlement to legal guardianship of her own children.  Given the above, having a Will in place is of critical importance when it comes to the protection of your assets and guardianship in the UAE.

This Abu Dhabi Wills registry is a very important development for non-Muslim expatriates to ensure their own wishes can be properly documents and registered with the peace of mind that Sharia principles will not apply to their Abu Dhabi Estate. The landmark development aims at promoting investment in the region and allowing family members to avoid lengthy proceedings which arise when there is no Will in place.

To obtain more information about Wills in Abu Dhabi, please contact one of our experienced Wills & Inheritance lawyers. Email us at info@twslegal.ae or call +971 4 448 4284.

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