Registering an expat will at Abu Dhabi Courts – what you need to know

As well as the Dh500 fee at the court, translating the document will cost about Dh1,500 to Dh2,000

Non-Muslim residents can register their wills in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to help safeguard their assets. Photo: Getty Images
Powered by automated translation

Since May, non-Muslim expatriates have been able to dictate how they want their assets distributed when they die without Sharia law being applied to their will.

This came about thanks to a change in the rules governing how expat wills were handled with the introduction of a wills registry at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department. This now ensures no dispute or confusion over a deceased’s belongings or custody of their children – a huge step for the UAE’s legal system, offering protection for families at a very sad time in their lives. Here is how the registry works:

What is a will? 

A will is a legal document that you prepare in your lifetime dictating how you would like your wishes to be applied at the time of your death. These wishes can include the guardianship of your children, how you would like your estate to be distributed, who you would like to execute the will, your funeral arrangements and your general final wishes.

 What are the UAE's inheritance laws?

Inheritance laws in the UAE are based on Sharia law, which is governed by the Islamic law and there is a set formula for each person in the family to inherit a particular share. The judge then decides on the shares, so if you do not have a will in place, the UAE law is applied and the judge applies it accordingly.

How a power of attorney helps with succession planning in the UAE

A power of attorney (PoA) – a legal document that allows you to appoint a representative to manage your affairs  – should be appointed during your lifetime. This means if you are mentally incapacitated or, for example, seriously ill in a coma, then a PoA, which the majority of the time is a family member or trusted friend, can manage your affairs or estate on your behalf.

It is a very powerful document and can run the risk of being used in a good or bad way – good meaning you give the PoA to the right person and that individual manages your affairs and looks after your interests in the best manner, However, a PoA can also be misused to go against your wishes.


Read more:

UAE’s non-Muslim expats now have a will for a way

DIFC registered wills safeguard your UAE assets

Your Money blog: Frequently asked questions on wills in the UAE

Will registration at DIFC relieves anxiety for expats with assets


How to get a will registered at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department

You can do the entire process alone, however having a legal consultant on board helps to verify various documents and can ease the process. The steps to follow are:

Step 1: Draft a will

A will should mention your beneficiaries, executors, guardians and how you want your estate to be distributed. Ensure you mention the full name, nationality, date of birth and place of birth of your beneficiaries as well as your relationship to them. Failing to do so can cause complexities in the estate distribution after death.

Step 2: Translation

Your will must translated as the court registers both the Arabic and English versions. The translation costs around Dh1,500 to Dh2,000 depending on the case. Ensure a legal translator registered with the ministry of justice department carries out the translation.

Step 3: What to bring

• Emirates ID (original and photocopy)

• Passport (original and photocopy)

• Three copies of the will - one copy for the court and two for you

• Title deeds - if you mention any properties in the will, you need copies of the title deeds

Step 4:  Fix an appointment

• Log onto the registry's official site

• Create an account (the applicant must be over 21 to register)

• Pay the Dh500 fee online

• Fix an appointment

Step 5: Visit in person

Go to the court on Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street near Zayed Sports City and take a token from reception and wait for your number to be called.

The court is open from 7.30am to 3pm Sunday to Thursday.

Who executes the will?

It can be difficult to select a person who is reliable and trustworthy to handle such a stressful job. But people generally  nominate their partners or children over the age of 21. Note that wills registered at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department are valid in every emirate.

The benefits of having a will

If you die unexpectedly, a will dictates exactly how your personal affairs are handled from your funeral arrangements to your finances and the care of your children. It simply ensures your wishes are applied and that your family follows it. Having no will in place can cause fights among family members with money sometimes awarded to the wrong people. So, get a will in place to give yourself peace of mind should the worst happen.

Mohammad Marria is the managing director of Just Wills