The Role of Dubai Courts in DIFC Probate Procedures
Registering a Will in a jurisdiction like the United Arab Emirates [where personal and inheritance law is mainly governed by Sharia] is essential for expatriates to secure their assets and have them passed on to their loved ones after their death.
This could be done through three different registries in the UAE:
I. Wills Service Center under Dubai International Financial Center [DIFC],
II. Non-Muslims Will Registry under Abu Dhabi Judicial Department
III. Will Registration under Dubai Notary.
The above-mentioned registries are only for Non-Muslims who do not want to apply Sharia law on their assets. Other the hand, Muslims who prefer to register a will they may opt into the Sharia Compliant Wills.
Post the registration of a Will, the next important step comes after the death of the testator, which is legally termed as Probate. The probate procedures are different under various registries. This Article aims to discuss the Probate procedures of DIFC Wills and support ensured by the Dubai Court to uphold each Will registered under the DIFC Free Zone.
A. LAWS OF THE EMIRATE OF DUBAI ON WILLS
Dubai Law No. 15 of 2017 Concerning the Administration of Non-Muslim Estates in Dubai and Execution of their Wills [issued on 18th October 2017] confirms the jurisdiction of the DIFC Courts to register the Wills and administer probate matters. As per the New law, the “Register of Non-Muslims’ Wills” shall be established in both Dubai Courts and DIFC Courts, stating the form of the registry, its statements, and the registration procedures and regulations shall be determined by a resolution of the President of both Dubai Courts and DIFC Courts. The law applies to all wills and estates of non-Muslims in Dubai, including Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).
The law has given both the Dubai Courts and the DIFC Courts equal jurisdiction over disputes concerning the Will depending on the registry within which the Will was registered.
B. DIFC LAWS ON WILLS AND PROBATE
The WPR Rules [Wills and Probate Registry Rules] collectively provide a legislative framework for Wills and Probate matters. It clearly sets out the administrative functions of Wills Service Center and Wills Registry at the DIFC Courts and the power of DIFC Courts in relation to Wills and Probate matters for non-Muslims with registered wills within the DIFC. Part 55 of RDC [Rules of Dubai Financial Center Courts] has laid out rules relating to contentious and non-contentious probate claims.
C. DIFC PROBATE PROCEDURES DIFC AND NON-DIFC ASSETS
DIFC has clearly laid down, the steps and process to obtain the Grant of Probate [probate order] once the testator expires. A broad idea is given below:
a. The executor shall submit the following documents online:
i. a duly filled Probate Application Form along with the Witness statements.
ii. either the death certificate of the testator or shall sign a Statement of Oath in the absence of original death certificate.
iii. List of assets under deceased’s estate.
b. Once DIFC receives all the above documents a Case Progression Officer [CPO] will be appointed to review the submitted documents who will be the point of contact for the executor of the will till the Probate order is issued.
c. The executor shall then take an appointment of DIFC courts by paying the court fee. During this time the executor may notify the court if any additional assets have been identified.
d. The Registrar of the Will Registry will review the documents and then intimate the date on which a probate order may be issued.
e. On the said date the executor may collect the probate order if the same is applicable only inside the DIFC zone.
If the probate order comprises assets outside the DIFC zone the following additional procedures shall be followed.
a. The executor shall collect a Deputation Letter addressed to the concerned Court of the emirate(s) along with a list of assets which are located outside the DIFC Zone by paying a prescribed Court fee. This is for the conversion of DIFC Probate Order [Grant of Probate] to Dubai Courts Judgement.
b. The above documents shall be submitted before the Dubai Court Execution Department.
c. The Executive Judge who has been appointed by virtue of ‘Protocol of Enforcement between the DIFC Courts and the Dubai Courts, 2009 will then review the documents submitted. Please note that the executor of Will is allowed to directly deal with the Execution Department of the Dubai Courts through the Executive Judge.
The appointment of the Executive Judge is specifically to undertake the task of enforcing the judgements, awards and orders issued.
d. a Distribution Letter may be issued by the Court addressing the relevant authorities directing them to transfer the assets to the beneficiaries named in the Will. A copy of the same will be issued to the executor of the Will as well.
As per Article 7 (1) of Dubai Law No. 16 of 2011, DIFC Courts has jurisdiction to execute any judgement, decision and order rendered by the Dubai Courts, if the subject matter of execution is situated within DIFC. Also, as per Article 7 (2) of the same law, the Dubai Courts has jurisdiction to execute any judgement, decision and order rendered by the DIFC Courts, if the assets are in Dubai.
Apart from the above, there are different Memorandum of Understanding [MoU] signed between various authorities such as the Department of Economic Development, Dubai [DED] and the Dubai Land Department [DLD] to ensure rapid facilitation of probate court orders covering the Dubai assets of those who have registered their wills with WPR.
In conclusion, it is very evident that the law has entrusted a legal obligation on Dubai Courts to uphold the Wills that are registered under the DIFC. The role of the Dubai courts, in support of the DIFC probate procedures, is a promise given by the Government of Dubai to all the Non-Muslim expatriates to boost their confidence to invest and secure their assets for future generations.