In October 2017, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) introduced a Virtual Wills Registry to give non-Muslims the opportunity to remotely create and register a Will to govern the succession of their Dubai assets.

Since the creation of the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry (WPR) in May 2015, non-Muslims with assets in Dubai have been able to register an English Will in Dubai to govern the succession of Dubai assets, free from the constraints of Sharia law. Law No.15 of 2017, which was introduced by the UAE government on 31st October 2017, gives official recognition to such Wills. The significance of this new law is considered in another blog which can be found here.

The new law is good news for British expats living in Dubai wanting to make an English Will. However, it’s not, of course, just those living in Dubai who own assets there. Until recently, taking advantage of the Wills service has proven difficult for individuals living in the UK, due to the requirement to be physically present at a registration appointment at the WPR in Dubai.

The virtual Wills service goes some way to solve this problem. It makes it possible to create and register a Will from your own home. A Will is prepared online using the Will Registry’s template and a step-by-step guide. The Will is then registered in real time by a video conference with a Registry Officer based in Dubai. There is no need for you or a witness to attend a registration appointment in Dubai.

The DIFC currently charges a registration fee of between AED 5,000 and AED 10,000 (depending on the type of Will). Whilst not an insignificant sum, the online process has the advantage of eliminating the costs of legal fees usually associated with the preparation of a Will.

However, an online Will-making process is always going to lack the element of personal service that comes with the assistance of a legal advisor. The benefits of the advisor’s understanding of the background and intentions of the testator are lost.

Not all Wills can be registered using this online service. ‘Full Wills’ (i.e. those dealing with all assets in Dubai, as well as the appointment of guardians for minor children) and ‘Guardianship Wills’ can only be registered in person. The online service is only open to those wanting to make a ‘Property Will’, a ‘Free Zone Company Will’ or a ‘Financial Assets Will’. It is not open to individuals who primarily reside in Dubai; they must attend the Wills Registry in person.

The virtual Wills service may prove useful to those who, up until now, have been put off registering a Will with the DIFC because of the need to make a trip to Dubai.

It also marks another step towards ensuring that non-Muslims with assets in Dubai can ‘opt out’ of Sharia succession provisions.

Further details on the DIFC’s virtual Wills registry and FAQs can be found here.