Abu Dhabi is to introduce a new wills and probate registry for non-Muslims as it seeks to boost its attractiveness for skilled workers.
Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, counsel Yousef Saeed Al Ibri, said the decision was part of institutional and legislative mechanisms to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals and respect for other beliefs and ethnicities.
He said it would enhance the competitive position of the emirate and “have a positive impact on attracting people of distinguished expertise to work and live” there.
The new registry will provide a legal guarantee for inheritance, estate and wills with consideration of all cases concerning estates and properties located within the emirate for residents and non-residents.
It will also allow wills to be registered in English and make them available to the public.
Under current rules, expatriate deaths are governed under Shariah inheritance laws where the share of wealth is predetermined unless the deceased previously requested the application of the law in their home country, under the UAE’s personal status law.
In the case of a death of a deceased man with no request this would mean the freezing of assets including end-of-service benefits until all heirs had been contacted.
Assets would then be split under the Shariah system where male heirs and relatives are given a larger share. As a result, widows typically receive far less than under Western inheritance systems.
Abu Dhabi-based The National reported this week that some law firms were ripping off expatriates by claiming to ensure their assets would not be based on Shariah law in the case of death.
The new registry follows a similar measure implemented by Dubai International Financial Centre in 2015.