The introduction of the world’s first ever online will registration programme has taken the hassle out of a time-consuming and onerous task for thousands of Dubai residents. The launch of a virtual service by the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry, built on the expertise provided by EmQube, means overseas customers can create and register their will through video conferencing. Furthermore, because the will is digitally encrypted and stored, customers can be certain convenience is more than matched by security.
The DIFC Wills and Probate Registry (The Registry) in Dubai, a public entity of the Dubai Government and an ancillary body of the DIFC’s Dispute Resolution Authority, is less about automation and more about innovation.
While it’s not unusual for courts to operate a degree of automation, it became clear to those at The Registry that an innovative will making system for non-Muslims expatriates would need to be complemented by technological innovation.
Spearheading this innovation was the Registry’s Senior IT Manager, Arul Jose Vigin, a young and enthusiastic technologist with 14 years of experience in the IT arena.
A key advantage of automating the will registration process was to ensure adherence of processes while allowing the Registry to handle a higher volume of transactions. It is now able to provide a better experience for clients by enabling them to book their appointments online, draft their asset specific will through a template and register via the virtual registry.
The automated system also ensures a higher level of data security and confidentiality through encryption. Personal data and the will contents had to be protected; maintaining an encrypted digital will was of paramount importance to the Registry.
It also increased the ease of use for customers who can now log on to request an appointment and complete personal data for the will. Regular back-up of the databases reduced the risk of losing critical data.
Furthermore, the new system provides insightful reports at the click of a button, helping the Registry to make faster and better decisions.
The introduction of the virtual registry benefits overseas customers by allowing them to create and register their will through a video conferencing link to the Registry. Overseas investors and non-residents are now able to protect their assets without attending an in-person registration appointment.
The key users of the system are customers (known as testators), lawyers and the registry staff.
The application is built on the Microsoft .NET framework 4.5 (C#), with WCF service using Angular JS and Bootstrap. The database is SQL Server 20008R2 with 64-bit Encryption. The apps are natively built on Objective C and Java.
The solution’s customer portal allows users to:
- Book an appointment for will registration – virtual will registration or in-person at the DIFC Office
- Create assets specific wills: property wills, free zone company share wills or financial assets wills online
- Lawyers can also create a profile for their clients and book an appointment on their behalf
EmQube business analysts had some legal background and were also able to quickly grasp the business requirements. The Registry demonstrated the manual process of registering a will and the EmQube team was able to replicate this into an automated online system.
They also provided a mock walk-through for all modules in the portal allowing the Registry to perfect the client experience. It also ensured customer data privacy and confidentiality would not be breached during the project.
EmQube also ensured the application was scalable so it would grow from the initial full will to the recently introduced wills for property, free zone company shares and financial assets.
It is a Dubai government mandate that all applications must support mobile devices – so native mobile applications for both iOS and Android were created.
A mobile option enables users to download an app and book an appointment for their will registration. Customers can access all the online will templates from their mobile device.
A key objective when designing the templates with EmQube was to ensure users without legal experience could easily draw up their will using the templates. A contextual help button was included to make it easy for the end user to understand multiple clauses when making a draft.
The appointment portal and back office portal are entirely new custom-made systems which did not require any integration with existing systems.
In the coming year (2018), the portal will be integrated with the DIFC Courts system to allow transfer of probate cases seamlessly from the Registry to the DIFC Courts.
Arul Jose Vigin, senior manager IT, Dispute Resolution Authority, told us more about the system.
What challenges did the project present?
The Registry launched the will registration for non-Muslim expatriates which was a great success. Over 3000 wills have been registered since its launch in late 2015. The manual process was converted into an automated portal in April 2016, which facilitated the registration of full wills that covered all aspects of a person’s estate.
The Registry management realised the potential of registering a will just for properties owned by expatriate residents as well as overseas investors in Dubai. The management also realised that while the fees for registering were affordable, the associated task of drawing up the will with the help of lawyers was time-consuming and costly.
The management conceived the idea of creating a stand-alone will for registering properties and using a web tool for composing the will. This was launched in September 2016.
After having successfully launched the property will that benefited resident expatriates, they then wanted to target the overseas investors who could not make it in person to do the registration. Thus, the idea of an online registration through Skype Meeting was conceived and executed. This was the world’s first ever online will registration programme.
Why was EmQube chosen to work on the project?
EmQube was the original architect of the wills registration solution that included the customer portal, as well as the back office registration portal. EmQube had in-depth knowledge of the legal as well as the business requirements and had worked on the technology platform that was being considered for this approach.
Can you describe the solution provided?
The solution consists of two systems:
A web-based portal for the client to compose the will, make an appointment and make payment, and the Skype Meeting and digital signature modules specifically for the online registration.
A web-based back office system for managing the complete process from appointment, to registration meeting, to approval and encryption of the will and digital storage. The will review process for online registration was the additional module.
The process required a lot of user experience design models which also had to support mobile devices. Making the flow simple enough to be understood and followed was a challenge that was tested before the development.
How long did it take to implement the solution?
The property will had a total implementation cycle of over five months and went live in March 2017. The online will registration took two months to deliver and went live on October 2017. Both the projects were delivered on time.
Was additional staff training required?
The staff were given additional training in terms of managing the verification process on Skype Meeting. The will review was assisted with a checklist control which ensured compliance to the legal requirements.
How does the new solution integrate with existing systems?
The solution is part of the will registration system architected by EmQube and the extension was a smooth affair owing to the scalable design of the software. All new functionalities were merged within the same modules.
What precautions were taken to secure the existing IT environment?
The solution stores confidential data in an encrypted data vault that is separate from the main transaction database. All identities of the clients are encrypted and the will is digitally encrypted.
The client portal and the back office portal are two different applications that do not talk to each other directly as all interfaces are done through a middle-layer.
What are the main advantages of the new solution?
End users can now compose their own will and do not have to travel to Dubai to register their property will.
As the software architecture is scalable, it can be used to launch other similar services. As a matter of fact, the initial wills application has been expanded to now offer property wills, financial asset wills and free zone company shares wills.