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Key legislative amendments regarding the Probate Court in Dubai

On June 14, 2023, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, issued Decree No. 25 of 2023 regarding the establishment of the Probate Court in the Emirate of Dubai, whereby the previous decree no. 6 of 2022 was repealed and replaced with this new decree.

With the aim of refining the legal framework of Probate Courts, the newly issued decree expanded the jurisdiction of the Probate Courts to other types of lawsuits, provided litigants with the right to object against decisions issued by preliminary judges, set a two-stage litigation process, and emphasized that the rules governing enforcement of judgments shall apply to enforcement procedures of probate judgments. 

What are the key takeaways of the decree?
     1- The decree introduced a qualitative amendment whereby the Probate Court’s jurisdiction was expanded to include resolving disputes related to the distribution of co-owned real estate and movables assets that have become part of a deceased’s estate. Such disputes include those which transpire amongst the heirs themselves, or between heirs and third parties, as well as any claims or reliefs sought by the concerned heirs and fall under the jurisdiction of the Probate Court.

     2- The decree granted exclusive jurisdiction to the Probate Court to hear all types of probate lawsuits, related claims and requests, whereby the previous decree restricted its jurisdiction to claims exceeding the value of AED 500,000.

     3- The decree explicitly excluded criminal and labor lawsuits related to inheritance and probate requests, as well as disputes between shareholders of companies whose ownership was transferred to the heirs, from the jurisdiction of the Probate Court.

     4- The decree states that probate claims falling under the jurisdiction of special judicial committees, established by virtue of the ruler's decision, are excluded from the jurisdiction of the Probate Court. However, the decree emphasizes that probate cases being heard by these special judicial committees can be referred to the Probate Court by virtue of a decision issued by the ruler of Dubai.

     5- The decree allows parties the right to object to the decisions issued by the preliminary judge to the Court of First Instance within five working days, starting from the day following the date of announcement of the order or the decision. The Court of First Instance will decide on the objection in a consultation chamber, and its decision will be deemed as final and not subject to appeal.

      6- The decree allowed litigants the right to appeal judgments issued by the Probate Court of First Instance and to be reviewed by the Court of Appeal, whereas previously judgments issued by Probate Courts were considered final, enforceable and not subject to any appeal save as reconsideration requests which were adjudicated by the same issuing court. 

     7- The new decree removed paragraph (b) of article 15 of the previous Decree no. 6 of 2022, which allowed the reversal of judgments issued by a Probate Court. This amendment aligns with the establishment of the Court of Appeal, which allows parties to appeal judgments issued by the Court of First Instance.

     8- The decree stipulates that judgments issued by the Probate Court must be executed according to procedures followed by the execution court, including the service of in absentia judgments, the notification of execution writs, and the possibility of objecting and appealing decisions issued by the execution judge during the execution procedures. Previously, execution was carried out without the need of serving summons, and parties could not contest or appeal the decisions issued in this regard.

Furthermore, the decree stipulates the sources on which the court must predicate its judgments while adjudicating requests, lawsuits, and appeals. These sources are as follows:

    i. Federal and local legislation applicable in the Emirate.
    ii. Islamic Sharia provisions.
    iii. Principles of justice, rights and equity.
    iv. Customary practices, unless they contradict applicable legislation, public order, or public morals.

There is no doubt that this specific provision is of great significance, seeing as the decree expanded the probate judge’s discretion and enabled them to deliver justice by all means. 

     9- All ongoing cases which currently fall under the expanded jurisdiction of the Probate Courts should be referred to the newly established Probate Courts, except for the cases which have been reserved for judgment.

This article was written by litigation lawyers Asim Ahmed and Ahmed Labib, and discusses the Probate Court in Dubai. 

BSA is a regional Law Firm in the Middle East with offices in the UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia. As a full-service law firm our practice areas include litigation, arbitration and corporate services, including M&A, banking & finance, Intellectual Property, TMT, Fintech, employment and insurance.

Published on 22 June, 2023.

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