The Estate Process in Israel – An Overview

Under the Inheritance Law of 1965 (the “Inheritance Law”): (1) a Probate Order for the estate of a deceased must be obtained in order to distribute property in Israel left under a Last Will and Testament (“Will”) to beneficiaries, or (2) if the deceased did not leave a Will (intestate), or left a Will that is not valid, an Inheritance Order must be obtained to declare the rights of heirs and to distribute estate assets located in Israel.

For both types of orders, an applicant (an interested party in the estate) submits an application to the Registrar of Inheritance and swears to the truth of the information in the application by way of an affidavit. A Probate Order application must provide information about the applicant, the deceased, and any changes regarding the beneficiaries listed in the Will either before or after the decedent’s death. An Inheritance Order application must contain information about the applicant, the deceased, the deceased’s family and an affidavit from a third party, without an interest in the estate, stating personal knowledge about the decedent and his/her family. Further, in both cases the filing fee must be paid and the applications must include other required documents including evidence of death (i.e., death certificate), Will (for a Probate Order) and a notice to the heirs or beneficiaries, as the case may be. An important aspect of Israeli law is the absence of taxes on property received by inheritance.

In a Probate Order application, the applicant must submit the original Will (or a copy, if the Will was deposited with a court or registrar). If the Will is in a foreign language, besides English, the Registrar of Inheritance will require a notarized translation into Hebrew.

Where the deceased was not a resident of Israel, the applicant must submit a legal opinion** regarding the inheritance law of the deceased’s place of residence with the application for both types of orders. The applicant must also submit evidence of the location of the property the deceased left in Israel in order to establish jurisdiction.

In certain instances, the Registrar of Inheritance transfers applications to the Family Court for adjudication, and the Custodian General of the Ministry of Justice may intervene in an application if it determines that a matter of public interest is involved. The Registrar of Inheritance always transfers applications to the Family court when the decedent was not a resident of Israel but left property in Israel.

Estate Administration

Although Israeli law does not require the appointment of an estate administrator (or executor), the court appoints one in certain cases. An estate administrator may be beneficial or necessary in situations such as when Israeli assets are left by a foreign resident, particularly if there are no local Israeli heirs or beneficiaries, if the estate contains substantial assets, or if there are numerous beneficiaries both local and abroad.
When an estate administrator is appointed to distribute an estate, the estate proceedings are under the jurisdiction of the Family Court. The Inheritance Law has many requirements and regulations regarding estate administration including the obligation to file annual financial reports and to act in the best interests of the estate. Further, certain actions taken by estate administrators (such as the sale of real property) must receive prior court approval. Currently, Israel does not have an estate tax.
Once the Probate or Inheritance Order, as the case may be, is obtained, real property can be registered in the names of the beneficiaries or heirs and other estate assets can be distributed.
(Sharon Mann, Adv.)
*Please note that this summary provides general information and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please consult with a licensed Israeli Advocate for your specific needs.
**Advocate Sharon Mann is a member of both the American and Israeli Bar and is able to provide a legal opinion for Inheritance and Probate Order applications where the deceased was a resident of the United States or the beneficiaries or heir(s) are United States residents/citizens.

Intestate Succession

When the deceased does not leave a Will, or leaves property not mentioned in a Will, or the Will is determined by court to be invalid, the Inheritance Law provides for intestate succession. Heirs may include the deceased’s spouse at the time of death (also may include a common-law spouse); the deceased’s children (issue) and their issue, the deceased’s parents, grandparents and their issue; and where there are no heirs, the State of Israel. The Inheritance Law clearly lays out the percent of the estate to which each heir is entitled regarding the deceased’s real and personal property. Note that the Law provides that a deceased’s spouse is entitled to all movable property, including cars.

(Sharon Mann, Adv.)

*Apostille is certification under the international Apostille Treaty which specifies the manner through which a document issued in one of the signatory countries can be certified for legal purposes in all the signatory states.

**Please note that this article provides general information and should not be relied upon as legal advice. This article does not cover spousal rights upon death. Please consult with a licensed Israeli Attorney for your specific situation.

Work for Hiire

Professionals (such as engineers, architects, designers, programmers, translators, technical writers and any other like business that provide services for hire) strengthen the payment terms of your contracts. If the services provided include the preparation and/or writing of materials such as plans, drawings, reports, written product, software, code, utilize the sanctions for misuse under copyright law.

[contracts should always be in writing setting forth at least the basic terms such as basis or goals of agreement, deliverable, payment and relevant dates. Failure to set forth clear terms in writing is an invitation for disagreement or manipulation]

Adopt a condition in each contract stating that rights and use in copyright transfer to the customer/client only after payment in full. In the event there is a disagreement regarding payment, the disagreement will also include issues of copyright and use. The customer/client takes the risk that in the event of breach on the customer/clients part, any unauthorized use would also be a violation of the Copyright Law, 2007. Under the Law, a court can award up to nis 100,000 for each violation.

Copyright Law, 2007, section 56(a) states: “in event of violation of copyright or moral right, a court can, upon request of plaintiff, award to the plaintiff, for each violation, damages without proof of actual damages an amount that shall not exceed nis 100,000.”

(Richard Mann, Adv.)

Wills and Intestate Inheritance In Israel - The Basics

The Inheritance Law of 1965 (‘Inheritance Law’) and the Inheritance Regulations of 1998 govern inheritance in Israel and apply to any person who left property in Israel or was an Israeli resident at the time of death. If you have property in Israel and/or are a resident of Israel and you want to determine exactly how your assets will be distributed upon your death, unless you make a Last Will and Testament (“Will”) your assets will be distributed according to the Inheritance Law which specifies the persons who may be heirs and the order of precedence to inherit estate assets.

Wills

In Israel, a Testator (one making a Will) may make a Will as long as s/he is acting of his/her own free will, legally competent and at least 18 years old. Israel’s Inheritance Law recognizes the following four types of valid Wills (each one has certain defined requirements that must be fulfilled according to the Law):

(1) Executed before two witnesses (neither of whom has any interest in the estate);
(2) Handwritten;

(3) Prepared and executed before an authority (i.e., Notary or Court Registrar); and

(4) Oral (Note: Only a person who is on his deathbed or who completely and reasonably regards himself as facing death, may declare a Will orally before two witnesses. An oral will becomes void if the testator is still alive one month after a change to the circumstances which justified its making.).

The Inheritance Law provides that a testator may revoke or change a Will and replace it with a new Will at any time.

If you own property in Israel, even if you have a foreign Will which covers assets outside of Israel, you should consider making an Israeli Will. This is because probating a foreign Will can sometimes incur complications and the process can be lengthy due to foreign wills tending to have estate planning provisions not related to Israeli law or to the property in Israel. The Israeli Registrar may require a notarized translation of an entire foreign Will which can add additional expense and time to obtaining a Probate Order permitting distribution of the asset(s). If you do a Will solely for your Israeli assets, it is important to state that said Will solely refers to your Israeli property and does not revoke other wills regarding property outside of Israel. The Registrar usually does not request a Hebrew translation of a Will in English which is executed in Israel.

A beneficiary of property in Israel under a foreign Will may either petition the Inheritance Registrar for a Probate Order for distribution of the Israeli assets (similar to local Wills) or, if the foreign Will was probated abroad he/she can show proof of the foreign Will (also via petition for a Probate Order) in Israel. Proving a foreign Will can be done by Apostille* if the Will was drafted in a country which is signatory to the Apostille Treaty such as the United States and the United Kingdom (note: Canada and Australia are not signatories to the Apostille Treaty).

A Will is important in many cases (too numerous to list here) as each person’s legal needs are individual and vary from situation to situation. Examples of circumstances when it is advisable to leave a Will include when: (1) the possibility exists that a minor or legally incompetent person will inherit property. (Here, a Will can prevent the Custodian General from intervening to protect the rights of such an heir); (2) if there are special relationships (i.e., same sex relationships; unmarried couples); desire to leave assets to a friend, or favored relative); (3) desire to leave donations; (4) non-resident of Israel leaving Israeli property; and (4) any other specific planned distributions of property.