Question: Can you explain the ownership laws if I am buying property (apartment or a villa) in Dubai? Will the property and the land it is on be something I can bequeath to my children, as I would with property back home in India? How does this work? What happens to the property in case I die?
Response: Pursuant to your queries, the provisions of Law No. 7 of 2006 concerning Real Property Registration in the Emirate of Dubai (the ‘Dubai Law No. 7 of 2006 on Real Property Registration’); Federal Law no. 28 of 2005 related to Personal Status (the ‘Personal Status Law of UAE’); Law No. 15 of 2017 Concerning Administration of Estates and Implementation of Wills of Non-Muslims in the Emirate of Dubai (the ‘Dubai Wills Law’); and DIFC Wills and Probate Registry Rules (the ‘DIFC WPR Rules’) are applicable.
In Dubai, an expatriate may purchase freehold or leasehold property. This is in accordance with Article 4 of the Dubai Law No. 7 of 2006 on Real Property Registration, which states: “The right to own Real Property in the Emirate shall be restricted to UAE nationals, nationals of the Gulf Cooperation Council States, companies fully owned by these nations, and public joint stock companies. Subject to the approval of the Ruler, non-UAE nationals may be granted the following rights in the relevant areas determined by the Ruler:
a. Freehold ownership of Real Property, without time restrictions; and
b. Usufruct or lease rights in Real Property for up to ninety-nine (99) years.”
You may bequeath the real estate property owned by you in Dubai to your legal heirs.
In the UAE, a non-Muslim individual may apply his home country’s personal law for personal matters such as marriage, succession and distribution of his estate. This is in accordance with Article 1(2) of the Personal Status Law of UAE, which states: “The provisions of this Law shall apply to citizens of the United Arab Emirates State unless non-Muslims among them have special provisions applicable to their community or confession. They shall equally apply to non-citizens unless one of them asks for the application of his law.”
Further, in Dubai, a non-Muslim who owns a property, may bequeath the same to his successors by registering a Will with Dubai Court or with DIFC Wills Service Centre. This is in accordance with Article 6(a) of Dubai Wills Law, which states: “A register known as the ‘Register of Wills of non-Muslims’ has been created at the Dubai Courts and at the DIFC Courts for the purpose of registering Wills of non-Muslims.”
Based on the aforementioned provision of law, you may register a Will wherein your children are mentioned as beneficiaries, with the Dubai Court or DIFC Wills Service Centre of DIFC Court under certain conditions mentioned in Article 8 of the Dubai Wills Law, which states:
“Registering a Will on the Register will be subject to the following conditions:
1. The testator must be non-Muslim.
2. The Will must satisfy the Will validity conditions stipulated herein.
3. The Will must nominate an Executor and must state how the willed property will be disposed of.
4. The testator must have signed the Will or affixed his seal or fingerprint to it, in the presence of two (2) witnesses
5. The text of the Will must not have been altered by deleting or erasing any part thereof, or by adding or inserting new text.
6. All the fees prescribed by the legislation in force in the Emirate must have been paid.”
Based on the Dubai Wills Law, the DIFC Court has formulated DIFC WPR Rules. Article 5(2) of the DIFC WPR Rules interprets (a) ‘Estate’ as ‘the Immovable and Movable Property of a Deceased and includes Property over which he exercises a general power of appointment by his Will wherever situated’ and (b) ‘Estate Property’ as ‘any Property comprised in the Estate of a Deceased wherever situated.’ Therefore, the DIFC WPR Rules allows an individual to include in his or her Will the estate(s) owned by him or her which are situated within or outside the UAE.