Guardianship for Non-Muslims in UAE

The UAE, like other legal systems, does not differentiate between religion and ethnicity. It is the duty of each individual to ensure that relevant and valid documentation is available in a situation where a resident becomes incapacitated or dies. In this specific post, we would like to concentrate on the significance of knowing the Will and Guardianship procedures. If you are currently residing in the UAE as an emigrant with your family, it is important that you be aware of the country’s guardianship regulations.

The underlying premise of these regulations is that decisions affecting children must be taken in the best interests of the child. These rules are based on Islamic Sharia ideals. They apply to Muslim and non-Muslim households, as well as expats and national families in the UAE.

The Government of Dubai established the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry for non-Muslim expats in the UAE to allow them to transfer their Dubai-based assets and nominate guardians for their children according to their Will.

Difference between Guardianship and Custody

The various positions given to parents, being the ‘custodian’ or ‘guardian,’ are an interesting aspect of UAE custody laws.

A child’s guardian provides financial support for the child, makes crucial decisions about his/her upbringing and education, and manages the child’s affairs in general. On the other hand, the custodian is involved with the child’s daily activities. The custodian is responsible for raising and caring for the child and also holds physical custody.

It is common for one parent to serve in both capacities. The mother is usually given custody of the children before they reach a certain age, but the father is still regarded as the guardian. The Court, however, has the authority to make decisions that are in the best interests of the child.

The designated guardian can be for a specified period of time or until the child reaches adulthood. A temporary guardian looks after the child in the wake of the guardian’s death, such as providing them with a secure place to live and picking the kid from school before a permanent guardian takes over.

A temporary guardian must be a local resident. Permanent guardians are normally relatives who are responsible for the child in the long term. They are consulted in all big decisions, such as which school the kid will attend and where he/she will live.

Importance of Will

It is imperative to have a Will in existence, whether you live in Dubai or anywhere else, all countries where you own assets must be covered. In your absence, a Will gives the courts and families specific guidance about how your properties must be divided and, most significantly, who should take care of your children.

In case of death without a Will in place, it may take longer for funds to be released to those who are left behind. If you plan it better, probate may happen faster.

The Guardianship Law in the UAE

In the event of death in the UAE, all the assets in the deceased’s name are frozen, allowing the estate’s debts to be paid off. The family must go to the Court of First Instance to collect a Shariah Certificate to settle the deceased’s properties. They have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. It would be ideal to employ a local law firm, at an agreed fee, as it can make your task easy in the court.

If one parent dies, the child’s custodian is the living spouse. If the husband survives, he is naturally the guardian as well. The choice of a guardian for the children is based on the decision of a local judge if no instructions are given beforehand. The local judge will proceed in the child’s best interests, but going through the proceedings without a verified document may prolong the result at a time when the emphasis should be on the welfare of the child.

It’s worth noting that if both the mother and father die, the kids will not necessarily be given to their families or relatives. Children of a certain age who does not have a designated guardian may become a ward of the government. They can be separated and given to UAE-based families. If the family decides to seek the return of these children, the legal process may likely take months or even years.

Options for Non-Muslim Expats

Although the expense of registering a Will or a Temporary Guardianship agreement in the UAE may appear prohibitive, this is the safest option. A bilingual declaration naming the guardians and provisional guardians must also be included as an important addition to the Will. If you don’t register, you must go through the court, hire a local law firm for a legal opinion, and accept the risk that local law may circumvent your expectations. Ensure that you have a Will in effect before adding a temporary guardianship document and registering it.

The DIFC Wills Service Centre (DIFC WSC) and the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) now provide options for registering a Will. Both options help non-Muslim parents to appoint temporary and permanent guardians for the child. They can also make choices on how their financial assets will be distributed after they die.

If parents only choose to mention guardianship in their Will, the DIFC WSC requires them to file a Guardianship-Only Will, which permits both temporary and permanent guardians to be named but cannot address properties. If the worst happens to the parents, the designated guardians will be officially recognized to act in the interests of the children. Further, if the Will is properly drafted, the guardians will be able to travel with the children if necessary.


Expat life in Dubai can be detaching, particularly for those who lack the local support network that can be provided by an extended family. If disaster strikes, it’s significant to emphasize that parents have considered and expressed their desires for their child’s imminent and long-term care to those they trust.

It’s crucial to note that under Islamic law, even the death of one parent makes a child an orphan. The UAE takes its duties to orphaned children very strictly. If a suitable custodian or guardian is not identified, the children will be taken into the custody of The Women and Children’s Shelter Facility before a suitable guardian is appointed and the necessary formalities are completed.

Finally, it’s a good idea to get detailed legal advice from a qualified consultant to guarantee that the document you’re working on accurately reflects your purpose and safeguards your children. To discuss this in detail, contact our expert legal consultants.

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