Expatriate Wills in the UAE


A will, also referred to as a last will and testament, is a document through which the person making the will, known as the testator, express his/her wishes as to how their assets are to be distributed after their lifetime. It is of utmost importance for any person to make a will because it ensures his/her last wishes are honored especially regarding the manner his/her assets, if any, are to be distributed.

The UAE, which is home to a large expatriate population, has strived to create a conducive environment for their betterment. To achieve this, there have been innumerable amendments to the law. One such amendment is permitting expatriates to make wills as per the laws prevalent in their home country.

What Happens When You Do Not Make a Will?

When a person passes away without leaving a will i.e. intestate, Sharia law,  which is the law of the land in personal status matters, as set out in the UAE Personal Status Law (Federal Law No. 28 of 2005) would apply (“Personal Status Law”). Hence, in such a situation, the power lies with the local courts to distribute the intestate’s estate and appoint guardians as per the Sharia Table of Inheritance. The distribution done by the Court may not always be in conformity with the intestate’s last wishes or chosen beneficiaries. For the court to decide on the legal heirs of the intestate, it could be a time consuming process. Hence, it is preferable for anyone residing and having in the UAE to have a written will in place in order to avoid any such delay and ensure ease for one’s family. The person making a will is referred to as a testator.

Possible Issues that may arise:

  • Lower share to the spouses– The wife of a deceased is given 1/8thof the estate left by him. The husband of the deceased is only entitled to 1/4thof the shares in his wife’s estate.
  • No automatic distribution of joint asset– When an asset is held by two people jointly, in the event of death of one, the estate does not pass on to the other owner, but to the legal heirs of the deceased, as per Sharia Law provisions set out in the Personal Status Law, unless the beneficiaries request the personal status courts, in the first hearing of the case opened in relation to the estate of the deceased, to apply the personal status law of the deceased relating to succession of the estate left by him..
  • No guardianship to the wife– In the event of death of the husband, the guardianship of the children does not automatically pass on to the wife and she has no legal entitlement to the same.
  • Problems in case of financial assets– Bank accounts, including joint bank accounts of the deceased get frozen.
  • Problems to the heirs– The visas of all the dependants get cancelled, leaving them with one year of stay before they are asked to leave the country.

Registering Wills in Abu Dhabi 

The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (“ADJD”) has very recently amended its laws and regulations to allow the expatriates to register their wills. In August, 2018, the ADJD started operations of a special Non-Muslims Wills Office focusing on the non-muslim expatriates in the country. This makes it easier for the legal heirs of the deceased, with a different nationality, to claim the assets left by the deceased in the UAE.

Other Registries of Wills in the UAE

Other than at ADJD, wills can be registered in Dubai courts, or at the Dubai International Financial Centre (“DIFC”). Within the DIFC, there are a variety of wills for specific purposes like property, guardianship, businesses etc.   All the will registries are reliable and suitable, however, in our experience the ADJD is the most suitable and economically viable option

Advantages of Registering Wills at Non-Muslims Wills Office in ADJD

  • Cheap– The cost of making a will in Abu Dhabi is only Dh950. This earlier used to be Dh5,500. This is relatively very cheap compared to the rates of Dh2,200 in Dubai courts.
  • Can be distributed any way– There are no conditions regarding what all the will should entail and what all it cannot. The estate can be equally divided between the males and the females.
  • Easy revocation– In the circumstance of the testator changing his/her mind, the will can be revoked at any time and the process to replace the old will with the new one is also easy.
  • Validity throughout UAE– The wills registered in the Abu Dhabi office are not confined to the estates located there, they have validity throughout UAE.
  • A simple process– The process is fairly simple and very less time consuming.

The Process

  • The application for making a will can be submitted online at the website of ADJD]. If all the requirements are met, this shall be notified by either an SMS or whatever mode of communication that has been specified. The application fee can also be paid online.
  • For an appointment for the application processing, Non-Muslim Wills Registration Office shall be contacted to schedule an appointment.
  • Original documents shall be submitted at the Non-Muslim Wills Registration Office on the date fixed.
  • After everything has been successfully done, the will is considered legalized and delivered by the Notary Public of the department.

Documents Required for Executing Wills at ADJD

Following are the documents which the testator needs to ensure are provided to the ADJD:

  • Both the original and a copy of the passport of the testator
  • Emirates ID of the testator
  • The document that is to be legalized as Will and sufficient number of copies of it
  • Documentary proof of the the property bequeathed in the Will
  • An official translation attested by the Ministry of Justice is required where the document is drafted in a language other than Arabic language.

Where Can This Be Done?

Abu Dhabi Judicial Department

Timings: 8am to 2pm
[Sunday to Thursday]Fee: Dh950
Contact No.: 02 6513257 or 02 6513262
Email: wills.non-muslims@adjd.gov.ae


Adv. Urvashi Ramachandran
Inheritance and Personal Law Practice