Muslim Wills and Non-Muslim Wills: Similarities and Differences

February 16, 2024by Kartik Shetty0

This article seeks to show the parallels and differences between Muslim and non-Muslim wills in the UAE, and tells why all expats must register a will.

Religious and cultural considerations have an impact on the legal environment around wills in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Considering the pertinent laws, rules, and legal publications, this article seeks to provide a thorough study of Muslim and non-Muslim wills in the United Arab Emirates. We explore the legal environment for wills by looking at documents showing the parallels and differences between Muslim and non-Muslim wills in the UAE.

Both the ideas of civil law and Islamic law (Sharia) are used to inform the laws of the United Arab Emirates. The UAE Personal Status Law (PSL) lays forth the guidelines for how a decedent’s estate is to be divided in terms of inheritance.

The UAE has a cosmopolitan population and includes both Muslims and non-Muslims. Consequently, when it comes to drafting wills for people from various religious origins, there are special considerations and legal obligations. For those concerned in estate planning and succession problems in the UAE, including legal professionals, understanding the differences between Muslim and non-Muslim wills is essential.

Muslim and non-Muslim wills are distinguished under the Personal Status Law. Sharia serves as the foundation for Muslim succession law. This signifies that the Quran and Sunnah shall be followed in distributing the deceased Muslim’s inheritance to their heirs.

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Muslim Wills

Muslims in the UAE must distribute their possessions in accordance with Islamic law, or Sharia. This section examines the guidelines and specifications for creating a legally binding Muslim will, including the duties of the executor, heirs’ rights, and the terms of bequests made in a testament. After 2022, pertinent papers will be published that discuss current trends and interpretations in this field.

Non-Muslim Wills

The legal basis for wills in the UAE is different for Muslims and non-Muslims. The rules that apply to non-Muslims are examined in this section, with a particular emphasis on the function of the UAE courts and the Wills and Probate Registry at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). Insights into the particular needs and processes for creating non-Muslim wills are provided by recent legal publications.

Legal Framework for Wills

In the UAE, wills are governed by the Civil Code. For Muslim and non-Muslim wills, there are different rules and interpretations. This article explores the legal landscape surrounding wills, stressing the important rules and laws that apply to both groups.

In the UAE, the differences between Muslim wills and Non-Muslim wills primarily stem from the application of Islamic Sharia law to Muslims, and the freedom given to non-Muslims to draft wills according to their own wishes and national laws. Here are some significant differences between the two:

  1. Basis of Law

– Muslim Wills: They are generally based on Islamic Sharia law, especially the principles derived from the Quran and Hadith.

– Non-Muslim Wills: Non-Muslims in the UAE, especially in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, have the option to register their wills based on their home country’s laws at specific registries, like the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Wills and Probate Registry.

  1. Distribution

– Muslim Wills: Sharia law prescribes fixed shares for heirs. For example, in the absence of a will, a male child would inherit twice as much as a female child. While Muslims can draft a will, they are usually limited in deviating from these fixed shares for more than one-third of their assets.

– Non-Muslim Wills: Non-Muslims can typically distribute their assets in any manner they see fit, according to their personal wishes or the laws of their home country.

  1. Testamentary Freedom

– Muslim Wills: There’s limited testamentary freedom. As mentioned, only one-third of a Muslim’s estate can be bequeathed outside the prescribed Sharia inheritance rules. This one-third can be bequeathed to non-heirs or charities.

– Non-Muslim Wills: There’s greater testamentary freedom, and individuals can choose to allocate their assets as they wish.

  1. Guardianship

– Muslim Wills: In the event of a death of a parent, guardianship issues are typically resolved under Sharia principles.

– Non-Muslim Wills: Non-Muslims have the freedom to appoint guardians for their minor children in their will.

  1. Validity and Execution

– Muslim Wills: These wills are often written in Arabic and need to adhere to the local customs and procedures for them to be valid.

– Non-Muslim Wills: With the introduction of facilities like the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry, non-Muslims can draft and register wills in English, and the execution process is more aligned with international practices.

  1. Property

– Muslim Wills: Only properties owned by the deceased in the UAE are typically covered.

– Non-Muslim Wills: Depending on how the will is drafted and where it is registered, it can cover properties both inside and outside the              UAE.

Given the complexities and intricacies of inheritance laws and practices in the UAE, it’s always advisable for both Muslims and non-Muslims to consult legal professionals when drafting their wills. This ensures that the will is valid, adheres to local requirements, and truly reflects the wishes of the person registering it.

Freedom under the Testament for Non-Muslims

In comparison to Muslims, non-Muslim residents of the UAE frequently have more freedom when drafting their wills. They are free to divide their assets as they see fit, provided that they abide by all applicable rules and laws.

Guardians

The testator may name guardians for minor children in a non-Muslim will. In the event of the testator’s passing, this clause makes sure that the children will be taken care of by those the testator designates.

Validation of Foreign Wills

Subject to a few restrictions, the UAE accepts foreign wills as genuine. To ensure conformity with local laws, it is advisable to get legal counsel as the procedure of enforcing international wills can be complicated.

Sharia Courts

Sharia courts in the United Arab Emirates have authority over issues involving Muslim wills. For the purpose of determining the legitimacy and execution of Muslim wills, these courts interpret and implement Islamic law.

DIFC Wills and Probate Registry

The DIFC wills and Probate Registry is a place where non-Muslims in the UAE, notably those living in Dubai and other part of UAE, can register their wills. Bypassing the Sharia courts’ authority, this registry permits the allocation of assets in accordance with the testator’s intentions.

ADJD Wills

The ADJD will assist in your comprehension of the procedures and laws governing civil wills and inheritance in Abu Dhabi. For the first time in the region, Abu Dhabi passed a new law in 2021 to govern family matters in accordance with civil and non-religious principles. The civil wills and inheritance procedures are governed by this statute. Both Muslim and non-Muslim expatriates can register their wills in ADJD. This registry facilitates the distribution of assets in accordance with the testator’s intentions, circumventing the power of Sharia courts.

Forced Heirship

Regardless of the terms of the will, certain family members may be entitled to a particular share of the deceased’s inheritance under Islamic law. These compulsory heirship laws differ by jurisdiction and may have an impact on how assets are distributed in Muslim wills.

Legal Conditions for a Valid Will

Wills must adhere to specific legal requirements in order to be considered valid, regardless of the testator’s religion. These conditions often include the testator’s capacity to make a testament, the presence of witnesses, and the absence of any compulsion or undue influence.

Dispute Resolution

The legal framework of the UAE offers procedures for settling disputes about or challenges to wills. This could entail going to court or using an alternative conflict resolution process like mediation or arbitration.

Tax on Inheritance

The UAE does not charge inheritance tax on the transfer of assets through wills as of my most recent update in September 2021. However, it’s critical to keep up with any modifications to tax legislation that can have an impact on how assets are distributed.

Wills in holograms

Holographic wills that have been handwritten and signed by the testator are recognized in the UAE. A holographic will must, however, satisfy stringent standards, including being a clear expression of the testator’s intentions and being free of any inconsistencies with existing laws.

Violating and Amending

Both Muslim and non-Muslim testators have the right to revoke or change their wills while still alive as long as they follow the proper legal processes.

Public Wills Database

A public will registry has been established in the UAE where people can register their wills for safekeeping. When necessary, this record aids in ensuring the availability and validity of wills.

Estate planning factors to consider

People may take into account several estate planning techniques when creating wills in order to reduce potential conflicts and increase the effectiveness of asset distribution. Trusts, charity contributions, and particular provisions to meet particular family circumstances are a few examples of these tactics.

Taking International Succession Laws into Account

It is crucial to take into account the probable application of international succession rules in situations involving people who have assets or links to other nations since conflicts of laws may occur.

Making a will as soon as feasible is crucial if you’re a non-Muslim who lives in the UAE. This will help to avoid any legal issues and guarantee that your final wishes are carried out as you had intended.

Whether you are a Muslim or a non-Muslim, there are several advantages to having a will. A will can ensure that your assets are divided in accordance with your preferences and prevent family strife after your passing.

Anyone who lives in the UAE should consider making a will. It could ensure that your assets are allocated in accordance with your preferences and prevent family strife after your passing. Making a will as soon as you can is crucial if you are a non-Muslim. This will help to avoid any legal issues and guarantee that your final wishes are carried out as you had intended.

The significance of selecting the appropriate law to control your will. Non-Muslims have the choice of letting the laws of their nation of residence control their will. This is a crucial choice since it will affect how your inheritance is divided after your passing. Consult with an expert attorney if you’re unsure about which law to choose.

It important to remember that UAE laws and rules may change. Therefore, while dealing with wills and succession issues in the UAE, it is always advised to contact official sources and legal professionals for the most recent and accurate information.

The requirement to file a will. Non-Muslims who live in the UAE must register their wills with the appropriate authorities. This will guarantee the legality and enforceability of your will. You can file a will through the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Wills Service Center or the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD).

The value of frequently updating your will. It is crucial to constantly update your will to make sure that it accurately reflects your current intentions because your circumstances may change over time. If you have any significant life events, like getting married, having kids, receiving a divorce, or acquiring or divesting any assets, you should also update your will.

Making a will in the UAE is a pretty simple procedure. There are, however, a few specific requirements that must be fulfilled.

  • The will needs to be documented in written form.
  • The will must be signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign the document.
  • The will must be registered with the relevant authorities.

The Advantages of Having a Will in the UAE are as follows:

  • Ensuring that the distribution of your assets is done in accordance with your desires.
  • Preventing family conflicts after your demise.
  • Ensuring the well-being of your young children.
  • Making arrangements for your burial and funeral
  • Appointing a guardian for your minor children.

Comparative Analysis

In this section, the legal requirements for Muslim and non-Muslim wills are contrasted in order to show the parallels and contrasts between the two legal frameworks. The article covers topics like testamentary capacity, inheritance laws, and the UAE’s acceptance of international wills. It also takes into account how recent court decisions and legal changes have affected how Muslims and non-Muslims create wills.

In conclusion, knowing the laws that apply to each faith group in the UAE is necessary for drafting wills. Non-Muslim wills follow the UAE Civil Code and other pertinent laws, but Muslim wills follow the principles of Sharia. The detailed analysis of Muslim and non-Muslim wills in the UAE offered in this article has focused on both their similarities and differences. Effective estate planning and maintaining the equitable transfer of assets depend on knowing these distinctions.  

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Disclaimer

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the respective authors. ATB Legal does not endorse these opinions. While we make every effort to ensure the factual accuracy of the information provided in our blogs, inaccuracies may occur due to changes in the legislative landscape or human errors. It is important to note that ATB Legal does not assume any responsibility for actions taken based on the information presented in these blogs. We strongly recommend verifying information from official sources and consulting with professional advisors to ensure its accuracy and relevance to your specific circumstances.

About ATB Legal

ATB Legal is a full-service legal consultancy in the UAE providing services in dispute resolution (DIFC Courts, ADGM Courts, mainland litigation management and Arbitrations), corporate and commercial matters, IP, business set up and UAE taxation. We also have a personal law department providing advice on marriage, divorce and wills & estate planning for expats.

Please feel free to reach out to us at office@atblegal.com for a non-obligatory initial consultation.

by Kartik Shetty

Kartik is a legal consultant at ATB legal, with a unique blend of skills for civil, corporate and commercial matters. He is a law graduate from Shivaji University, Mumbai and postgraduate from Pune University. He writes about family law and corporate and commercial matters.

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