Inheritance in Israel – Inheritance by Will

Israeli law provides two avenues for the deceased to bequeath property – one, according to the instructions of the deceased’s will. The other is by inheritance in accordance with the Law of Succession, 1965.

Inheritance According to the Provisions of a Will

Each adult may provide by will for the fate of his property after his death. The law allows a testator to make a will before two witnesses who do not benefit from the will. However, these wills are examined in depth as to their authenticity, content and identity of the signers. In fact, the execution of an ordinary will by a testator before 2 witnesses can result in legal questions that might arise if there is later disagreement regarding the will. However, a notarized will receives a greater presumption of validity and it is almost impossible to refute the will’s validity/authenticity, the legal capacity of the signer, the circumstances of the will’s execution and the identity of the signer.

To emphasize, a notarized will does not require 2 witnesses and it is sufficient that that the testator appears before a notary. There are situations in which the testator is on his/her deathbed in a hospital or his/her health condition is very poor, and there is a concern that a hostile party is interested in seizing control of the property of the testator. The law allows a notary to draft a notarized will and to attach a medical certificate in which the testator’s doctor affirms by affidavit that the testator understood what he was signing.

Note that wills to which one has attached such a medical certificate are almost impossible to contest as regards the legal capacity of the testator at the time he signed the will. Note that you can always draft a will later on which supersedes or modifies a previous will. There are cases where a testator is not fluent Hebrew and is interested leaving a will which will be valid in Israel.

In these cases there are several alternatives, listed in order of preference:

1. Make a will in the mother tongue and attach to an accurate notarized translation, and to then sign and validate it before a notary.

2. To draft a will in Hebrew while the notary orally translate the will for the testator verbatim.

3. Make a will before 2 witnesses who do not benefit from the will.

After the death of the testator, one of the will beneficiaries petitions the Inheritance Registrar in the same district where the testator lived prior to his death, and if the testator did not live in Israel, in the district where the majority of the estate is located, with an application for probate and an order for compliance with the provisions of the will.

The petition involves filling out special forms and paying a double fee, one in the sum of NIS 480 for initiating the application and the other in the sum of NIS 130 for advertising in two newspapers the fact that a probate and order of compliance with “Jon Doe’s” will, as required by law.

The purpose of newspaper advertising stems from the need to allow any opponents of the will’s probate to contest the probating of the deceased’s will, and this within 14 days from the date of publication. Note that in exceptional cases, it is possible to submit a motion for an extension of the deadline for filing objections to the probating of the deceased’s will rest, when the order became known to the objector after the objection period has passed.

It often happens that a testator, having children and a common-law spouse/companion, drafts a will at the initiative and insistence of the children whose intent is to deprive the common-law spouse/companion of receiving any inheritance after the death of the testator.

It sometimes occurs that these wills are drafted and executed under improper influence, pressure, threats, and while the testator was not legally competent, and sometimes wills are even submitted where the testator’s signature is forged(!). In cases such as this and others, it is advisable to file objections with the Registrar of Inheritance Matters.

After filing objections to the probate with the Inheritance Registrar, the petition and objections are automatically transferred to the Family Court or to the Rabbinate possessing the local authority to hear the matter.

At the conclusion of the legal proceedings, the judge will rule whether the will is legally valid, or is void. In the event of the will being probated – the will be executed in accordance with its provisions, and in the event of voidance of the will, the estate will be distributed according to the provisions of the Law of Succession.

Our office specializes in cases iegarding inheritance law in israel.