(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Up to 2015, Shariah used to be applied to all residents, Muslims or non-Muslims, when sharing out assets among family members in case of death, and that meant distribution of fortune based on a specific formula of proportions and conditions.
However, it was changed for non-Muslims since the establishment of the DIFC Wills Service Centre in 2015. Seeking security for the future of their loved ones, while protecting their well-earned wealth, business owners and residents started looking for the certainty a DIFC Will offers.
Thanks to the service, non-Muslims in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, whether they are residents or investors, have the privilege of distributing their lifetime wealth as they deem it convenient for them. The service offers them the chance to choose who benefits from their estate - just as they would at their home countries.
Dubai's Law No. 15 was passed in late 2017 and was designed to clarify the administration of Wills for non-Muslims with assets in Dubai.
According to Sean Hird, director of the DIFC Wills Service Centre, the passing of Law No. 15 and its swift implementation through the coordinated procedures of the DIFC and Dubai Courts, has delivered legal clarity and accelerated significantly the processing of inheritance cases.
"It reaffirms the security and certainty that is achieved through registering a will at the DIFC Courts, giving both residents and investors the ability to protect their families and their inheritance," Hird stressed.
Alastair Glover, a private wealth partner in the Dubai office of Trowers & Hamlins and a registered wills draftsman for the DIFC Wills Service, said: "Two of the best reasons for having a DIFC Will are ensuring your property is disposed of according to your own choices, and increasing tax efficiency, whatever is your home country."
The centre offers non-Muslims in Dubai and RAK the opportunity to protect their legacy by allocating their estate through a DIFC Will, choosing their own beneficiaries, rather than through the Shariah-based law whereas assets are distributed in fixed proportions to family members.
Home owners will be inclined to register a DIFC Property Will (which is specific to real estate assets) covering up to five real estate properties. An agreement with the Dubai Land Department, signed in 2015, aims at speeding up the process of exchange of information on property assets of registrants.
This flexible arrangement means foreign residents can be certain and reassured that the wealth they have accumulated during their life will be passed on to their loved ones just the way it might happen in their home country.
Company Will (that covers freezone companies) allows owners and shareholders to ensure that, in the event of an untimely death, the company can continue its business and the interests of family members will be secured.
Financial Assets Will is sure to protect liquid assets, up to ten bank or brokerage accounts including cash, shares, stocks and government securities.
Fees differ depending on what assets people want to secure and pass on. The Full Will covers all assets, with no limitation on the number of properties or company shares they hold, children, bank accounts, and other valuables. The price for a single Will is Dh10,000, and the price for a husband and wife - referred to as 'mirror Wills' - is Dh15,000. The online templates for property, bank accounts and company shares wills are free to use, and the registration fees range from Dh5,000 to Dh7,500.
All DIFC Wills require the registrant to provide their valid passport and Emirates ID (if resident) together with a copy of the valid passport of their chosen witness. Specific documents are required, depending on the type of will being registered.
Property Will - Copies of any title deeds or other proof of ownership documents for each of the properties that the registrant wishes to include in their Property Will.
Company Share Will - Copies of any Share Certificates or other proof of ownership documents for each of the shareholdings that the registrant wants to include in his/her Free Zone Company Will.
Financial Assets Will - The registrant may wish to include a one-page document that provides confirmation of each of their bank and/or brokerage accounts as listed in his/her Will. This is not mandatory. However, it may assist the appointed executors and the family members in the event of death.
Guardianship Will - Witness statements for interim and permanent guardians other than the biological parents.
There are five types of Wills that can be registered at the DIFC's Registry:
Full Will -It covers the distribution of one's assets in Dubai and/or RAK and the appointment of guardians of their minor children.
Guardianship Will - It covers the appointment of guardians of the registrant's minor children only.
Property Will - It covers up to five real estate properties only (online template).
Free Zone Company Will - The will covers up to five shareholdings in free zone or RAKICC (RAK International Corporate Centre) companies only (online template).
Financial Assets Will - This covers up to 10 bank and/or brokerage accounts registered at a branch that is situated in Dubai or RAK (online template).
Inheritance according to Shariah regulations
For Emirati advocate Ali Musabbah of Ali Musabbah Advocates and Legal Consultants Firm, the system that arranges the inheritances for non-Muslims in the UAE is a crystal clear reflection of the country's tolerance and respect for diverse faiths. "It makes sure that all rights of parties concerned are preserved in inheritance following the demise of a family member."
Implementing the Islamic Shariah, when organising and arranging the financial rights of heirs, guarantees that the will is drafted and disposed of in a fair and satisfying way within the legal channels.
"Before the estate is split as per the will, all expenses should be taken care of, including for instance, arranging for the funeral and other expenses, or wages and settlement of loans (due for payment) by the executor or/and heirs.
The law also grants the will writer the right to amend or retract it before his/her demise and register any modification at the notary public, so in a way that no one can take advantage or no right can be lost when the will is disposed of after death."
The husband and wife may inherit each other by a half proportion and the parents can also inherit from their children.
If a son dies and he has no male heirs, but only daughters, then his father inherits one sixth of his son's estate. "The proportion is different if there are sons and daughters or if there are sons with no daughters."
Since the division of estates is such a complicated process, the Dubai Courts has been seeking expertise of specialists in the Shariah.
Lawyer Musabah stressed to Khaleej Times how he is proud of the UAE Federal Personal Status Law. "This law and the new subsequent laws are convenient for all, as they ensure the estate is rightly and duly passed on to heirs without the slightest chance for any flaw, that can make way for unlawful benefit or loss of rights by any party."
Egyptian advocate Hani Hammouda of Kefah Al Zaabi firm for Advocacy and Legal Consultancy said that Law No 15. of 2017 on the management of inheritances for non-Muslims and implementation of their wills in Dubai is a local law, that has been newly issued to tackle the cases which were not mentioned in the Federal Personal Status Law. "There is law No 14. of 2017 that organises the endowment and grant for Muslims in Dubai."
According to advocate Hammouda, the purpose of these new laws is to take care of matters and find suitable solutions for wills, grants and inheritances, for Muslims and non-Muslims.