Dubai acts to reassure international property investors over Sharia’s impact on inheritance

The UAE Court process in relation to inheritance and succession matters is often a time-consuming, complex and costly procedure.

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Following the recent set-up of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Wills and Probate Registry (the Registry) in May, the Dubai Land Department (DLD) last week announced its memorandum of understanding (the Memorandum) with the Registry in a concerted move to bolster investor confidence.

The introduction of new inheritance rules mean that non-Muslim foreign nationals are able to dispose of assets in Dubai by way of a will, registered with the Registry, without being subject to the Sharia inheritance regime.

This move underpins Dubai’s commitment to provide transparency, confidence and legal certainty to international investors. It is likely to mitigate the concerns of international investors as to the practicalities and enforceability of DIFC Wills.

The Memorandum sets out structures for the exchange and handling of information between the DLD and the Registry and assigns clear roles and responsibilities in the process.

The developments are welcomed by the growing numbers of expatriates in Dubai who previously faced uncertainty about the impact of the potential application of Sharia to their estates.

The UAE Court process in relation to inheritance and succession matters is often a time-consuming, complex and costly procedure.

While the broad aim of the new regulatory framework is to provide certainty to those with assets in Dubai, it also demonstrates the commitment in Dubai to encourage inward investment, as expats will undoubtedly feel more secure in acquiring and maintaining assets in the region.

This comes at a time where figures published by the DLD on Dubai real estate investments made in the first half of the year depict sustainable growth.

Real estate transactions were made in excess of Dh53 billion, involving almost 20,000 investors from 142 countries, reflective of a strong market even before the latest developments.

These figures include 13,166 foreign national investors – from countries including India, Pakistan, Britain, Canada and Russia – who were involved in transactions worth Dh30bn.

Indian investors accounted for the largest share of transactions with deals worth Dh7.8bn, followed by British investors with transactions worth Dh4.7bn.

Commenting on these figures, Sultan Butti bin Mejren, the Director General of DLD, concluded that investors “have confidence in the future stability of the market and faith in the assurances provided in terms of a rewarding return on investment”.

Owners of assets in Dubai, or those considering acquisitions, should consider implementing a DIFC Will to cover the succession of these assets.

The Registry is already operating at capacity, which reflects a positive reaction by those with assets in the emirate. The long-term impact on the overall intention to encourage inward investment remains to be seen.

Rebecca Wardle is a private wealth associate at the law firm Trowers & Hamlins.

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