Expats in Dubai with assets such as property will now be able to choose how their estate is to be distributed under new inheritance rules.

New rules set in place by the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) will allow non-Muslim to be exempt from Sharia laws on succession.

The DIFC has launched a Wills and Probate Registry which is the first of its kind in the Middle East that allows non-Muslims to register English-language wills under Common Law.

Michael Hwang, head of the Dispute Resolution Authority and Chief Justice of the DIFC Courts said that the rules have been drafted on the basis of Common Law principles from the Estates Act and Probate Rules of the UK, and legislation of other leading common law jurisdictions such as Singapore and Malaysia.

It creates legal clarity for expats from all over the world living, investing and conducting business in Dubai in that their assets can be transferred to their loved ones upon death according to their wishes, reflecting their own laws, traditions and cultures.

‘Two innovative legal processes have been incorporated into the rules. The first is the requirement to sign the will, at the time of registration, in the presence of a registry officer. The second is the confidential and secure storage of the will at the registry,’ explained Hwang.

‘The signed wills will be safely stored in their electronic format for the remainder of the lifetime of the testator at the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry. This significantly minimises the possibility of damage, tampering and loss of the will,’ he added.

Until now, while United Arab Emirate law allowed expats to have wills according to the provisions of their native country, it did not include property.

Mark Beer, chief executive and registrar of DIFC Courts, said the registry’s aim is to provide additional security and certainty for those living and working in Dubai.