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Wills and Inheritance Laws in the UAE

Wills and Inheritance Laws in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a cosmopolitan nation with a significant expatriate population. Given its unique blend of cultures and legal systems, understanding the intricacies of wills and inheritance laws in the UAE is essential for both residents and expatriates. This article delves into the key aspects of wills in the UAE, offering guidance on how to ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes.


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Legal Framework Governing Wills in the UAE

In the UAE, the legal framework for wills and inheritance is influenced by both Islamic Sharia law and civil law principles. Federal Law No. 5 of 1985 on Civil Transactions (UAE Civil Code) and Federal Law No. 28 of 2005 on Personal Status (Personal Status Law) primarily govern these matters. For non-Muslims, the UAE provides specific provisions to allow the creation of wills that align with their personal wishes and legal traditions.

Sharia Law and Inheritance

Under Sharia law, which applies by default in the absence of a will, inheritance is distributed according to fixed shares prescribed by Islamic jurisprudence. These shares are allocated to specific relatives, such as children, spouses, parents, and siblings. The distribution is predetermined, leaving little room for personal discretion. This can be a concern for expatriates who wish to distribute their assets differently.

Wills for Non-Muslims

Recognizing the diverse population, the UAE allows non-Muslims to draft wills that reflect their personal wishes. This provides expatriates with the opportunity to bypass the default Sharia-based distribution and ensure their assets are allocated according to their preferences. Non-Muslims can specify beneficiaries, guardians for minor children, and other detailed instructions in their wills.

Registering a Will in the UAE

There are several avenues available for non-Muslims to register their wills in the UAE:

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Wills Service Centre:

  • The DIFC Wills Service Centre offers a dedicated service for non-Muslims to register their wills. This service ensures that the will is recognized and enforceable within the DIFC jurisdiction and beyond.
  • The process is streamlined, and expatriates can register their wills online, making it convenient and accessible.

Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD):

  • The ADJD also provides a service for non-Muslims to register their wills. This ensures that the will is recognized within Abu Dhabi's jurisdiction.
  • The ADJD's process includes translating the will into Arabic and verifying its validity.

Local Courts:

  • Non-Muslims:: can also register their wills with local courts in the UAE. This involves submitting the will for translation into Arabic and notarizing it to ensure its legal validity. Local court registration can provide an additional layer of legal recognition, although it may be more cumbersome compared to the streamlined processes offered by DIFC and ADJD.

Key Considerations for Drafting a Will in the UAE

When drafting a will in the UAE, several key considerations should be kept in mind:

  1. Legal Compliance:Ensure that the will complies with UAE laws and regulations. This includes having the will translated into Arabic if it is not already in that language and having it notarized or registered with the appropriate legal authority.
  2. Clarity and Specificity:Be clear and specific in your will to avoid ambiguity. Clearly outline the distribution of assets, identify beneficiaries, and specify any particular wishes or conditions.
  3. Guardianship of Minor Children :If you have minor children, it is crucial to designate a guardian in your will. This ensures that your children will be cared for according to your wishes in the event of your passing.
  4. Updates and Revisions :Regularly review and update your will to reflect any changes in your circumstances, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children, or changes in asset ownership.
  5. Legal Advice:Seek legal advice from a qualified lawyer with expertise in UAE inheritance law. This ensures that your will is legally sound and that all necessary legal formalities are correctly followed

Execution and Probate of Wills

Upon the passing of an individual, the will must go through a probate process to validate its authenticity and execute its provisions. This involves presenting the will to the relevant judicial authority, proving its validity, and obtaining a grant of probate. The probate process can vary depending on whether the will is registered with DIFC, ADJD, or local courts.


Creating a will in the UAE is crucial for ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and that your loved ones are cared for in your absence. Whether you are a resident or an expatriate, understanding the legal framework and options available for registering a will is essential. By taking the necessary legal steps and seeking professional advice, you can achieve peace of mind knowing that your estate will be managed by your desires.


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