Inheritance law in Israel Inheritance by will in Israel
Posted On March 31, 2021
Inheritance in Israel is governed by the Inheritance Act 1965 (“Inheritance Act”). Under the law, a person’s inheritance passes to his heirs upon death. This can happen in two ways: by will or by law. This article will focus on some key issues related to inheritance by will and probate in Israel. See “Law of Succession in Israel – Inheritance by Law” for a detailed explanation of inheritance by law in Israel.
The fundamental principle of inheritance is that a person is free to distribute his property as he sees fit. Therefore, the law of succession depends on the existence of a will. A valid will overrides the predetermined provisions of the law regarding the identity of the heirs and the distribution of the estate. A valid will can even void an existing order of succession (for example, in cases where the will was discovered only after the order of succession was granted).
A will is the expression of a person’s wishes regarding his affairs after his death. It is not necessarily limited to ownership only, although the issue of ownership is central. It is a binding legal document. With regards to property, a will can be extremely specific, detailing different instructions regarding one’s property and heirs. It can also be general, outlining only the general limits for its execution.
A will is not subject to obsolescence and there is no limit to the number of wills a person can create. However, it is important to note that the last valid will (chronologically) is the decisive one, voiding any previous, older will (unless a court of law determines that the ‘new will’ is defective to the point of illegality) . It is important to make sure that a will is up to date, especially if there are any changes, for example, marriage, divorce, acquisition of new property, etc. They have taken place.
The law in Israel recognizes four types of wills:
– Handwritten (article 19 of the Succession Law). The handwritten will must be fully written in the testator’s handwriting (Note! A handwritten signature is not enough) and must bear the date of its drafting, also in the testator’s handwriting.
– In the presence of witnesses (Article 20 of the Law of Succession). This type of will will be made in writing, will bear the date of its drafting and must be signed by the testator and two witnesses on that same date. It is recommended that one of the witnesses be a lawyer specialized in wills, in order to avoid errors in the will that could cause its nullification after the death of the testator.
– In the presence of an authority (article 22 of the Succession Law). This will be presented in writing or recited orally before a judge, the probate registrar, a member of a religious court or a notary public. The will must be accompanied by the testator’s testimony that it is indeed his will, and must be signed and authorized by the authority.
– Oral (article 23 of the Law of Successions). Also known as a ‘deathbed will’, this type of will is only possible if and when the testator is on his deathbed, or believes that he is facing imminent death (if the circumstances lend themselves to this belief) . The will must be made in the presence of two witnesses who understand the language of the testator, and they must also put the will in writing, including its current content, the date of its drafting and the circumstances that motivated its drafting in such form. Then, the will must be deposited in the Inheritance Registry Office. The oral will is void if within 30 days of its constitution the testator is still alive and the circumstances that justified its execution have elapsed.
Once made, the will can be deposited with the Inheritance Registry Office. This is not a required step, but it has important advantages, such as proof of the existence of the will and the assurance that the will will be preserved and not lost. The action of depositing a will with the Registrar is completely technical: the registrar does not verify or attest to the validity of the will on such occasion. Consulting an attorney in such matters is recommended. In addition, the content of the will and even the knowledge of whether a will has been deposited are kept secret, even from the heirs according to the will (as long as the testator is alive).
An heir or any person interested in the execution of a will can carry out its execution only by means of an order of succession, which is granted by the Registrar of Inheritances. An order of succession is an order that declares the validity and authenticity of an existing will. The order of succession validates the content of the will and gives it the same binding legal status as a court verdict. The application for an order of succession is published to allow for objections to the will.
If the will specifies only some of the assets of the deceased, the order of succession will only be valid with respect to the assets mentioned in the will. The order of succession does not suffer from obsolescence since it has the same status as a court verdict.
An application for an order of succession must include the following documents:
– Two receipts: proof of payment of the government fee upon application, from the Postal Bank of Israel.
– An application form for an order of succession signed by the sender and verified by a lawyer, notary, judge or the head of the local council.
– Original death certificate or true copy of the original.
– The original will or, in the event of its absence: a separate request to present a copy of the original will that includes the reasons why the original will cannot be presented, as well as proof of payment of the government fee corresponding to application. .
– Notices to all the remaining heirs notifying them of the Probate Order Request, including the signatures of the aforementioned heirs or confirmation of delivery of the notices by certified mail.
Consultation with an attorney regarding the exact procedural requirements of the probate order application process is recommended. In the event that the request for the order is made by a lawyer on behalf of an interested party, it must be accompanied by an original power of attorney or a true copy of the original.
An application for a probate order must be filed in four sets: one original set and three copies.
If the deceased’s place of residence was not Israel, along with the aforementioned documents, the application must include additional documents, including: proof of the existence of property (such as proof of ownership from a Property Registrar, bank account authorization active, etc.). All foreign documents must be signed by the Israeli Consulate in the country in which they were made. Documents in a foreign language (other than English or Arabic) must be translated into Hebrew. Translations must be signed by a notary public.
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