The Dispute Resolution Authority (DRA) of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC issued for public consultation, on 16 November 2014, draft rules relating to succession and inheritance for non-Muslims. The intention is to provide certainty to non-Muslims in passing their assets in Dubai to their chosen heirs without the need for proceedings in the Dubai courts.
Existing UAE law provides that the law of a deceased non Muslims nationality should apply to their estate but in practice the Dubai Courts have tended to apply Shariah law at first instance. Executors and heirs who do not wish the Shariah rights of inheritance to apply are then obliged to appeal through the Dubai Courts.
This can be a complex, costly and uncertain process during which assets located in Dubai may be frozen. As a result, non- Muslim individuals have been more reluctant to invest in Dubai and generally seek to minimise assets in Dubai by keeping cash offshore and holding real estate through an offshore company.
Under the proposed DIFC Will and Probate Rules (WPR), non- Muslim individuals with assets in Dubai will be able to execute and register a will under the jurisdiction of the DIFC and its courts. Upon death, the deceased executors must apply to the newly formed DIFC Wills and Probate Registry for a grant of probate, which will be issued by the DIFC Court and will be directly enforceable in Dubai. A testator - a person making a will - will also be able to appoint guardians in respect of any minor children within a DIFC will.
The testator must be non-Muslim and aged 21 or older. The will must only cover moveable and non-moveable assets in Dubai, and must be signed in front of, and witnessed by. the registrar or an authorised officer. The DIFC said it intended to accept appointments for the registration of wills from January 2015.