New Family’s attorneys provide expert legal consultation and advice on inheritance issues before preparing wills. To make a will, schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys at the Family Rights Center in Tel Aviv. Wills are prepared following at least one consultation during which the individual discusses their wishes and learns about all the potential issues affecting their will. Legal consultation is provided 40 hours a week, Sunday-Thursday, from 9 a.m-5 p.m. Following the consultation, the attorney prepares a draft of the will to be discussed in further consultations. Upon completion, wills are signed by two witnesses and stored in our Will Bank. The testator, the person making the will, may also file it with the Registrar of Wills. A will that is deposited with the Registrar of Wills is confidential during the testator’s lifetime and no-one except the testator can access it, even his spouse.
New Family recommends making a will when you are young. No young person anticipates tragic and unforeseen circumstances, so it is best to protect your interests and the interests of your loved ones by planning for all possibilities. It is crucial to include provisions in your will in the event that you can’t take care of your children. New Family recommends naming in your will guardians for your children or future children in the event of your death while your children are still minors. These are the decisions that every parent or couple should make for themselves, and not leave them to the state to decide for them. It is crucial to commit your wishes for your children’s future to a legal and valid will.
It is not necessary to own property or to have a partner to make a will. Wills can take into account not only the property you currently own but what property you may acquire in the future. It’s important to understand what rights former, current and future spouses have on your assets. Early planning affords you the luxury of dedicating thought to your last will and testament.
New Family also provides legal consultation on wills and inheritances in English and in some cases, consultations and wills in other languages can be arranged. Our attorney’s can draft wills in Hebrew and translate them to English if an English-language will is desired.
The Inheritance Law of 1965 recognizes four forms of wills. They are:
- A handwritten will that is in the testator’s handwriting and contains a date and signature. (The testator is the person making the will)
- A will in the presence of witnesses. It should be dated and signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses who give written authorization at the end of the will that the testator signed the will in their presence.
- A will made before an authority, such as a judge, court registrar, Inheritance Registrar, notary, or rabbinic court judge.
- A verbal or ‘deathbed’ will. When death is imminent, the testator’s can tell two witnesses what they wish to do with their estate. The two witnesses have to submit a written account of these instructions to the Inheritance Registrar as soon as possible. The will is automatically cancelled if a month later the testator is still alive.
Restrictions on Making Wills
The Inheritance Law of 1965 prohibits a beneficiary from having a role in the drafting of a will. A potential beneficiary cannot write up or be present when the will is being made. A court can declare a will invalid if it is proved that a beneficiary participated in the preparation of the will, or influenced the testator. To make sure the will is valid, potential beneficiaries should avoid involvement in the will’s preparation.
When the Deceased Left No Will
The Inheritance Law of 1965 lists family members who can inherit in cases where the deceased has not left a will, when there is property which is not distributed in the will, or the will is declared invalid. The law provides an order of preference. The first priority is a spouse (married or common-law). In descending order, children of the deceased inherit before parents of the deceased and parents of the deceased inherit before the grandparents of the deceased. Assets are divided equally between family members of the same rank. The family members who can inherit are:
- The deceased’s married or common-law spouse
- The deceased’s children and their children (the deceased’s grandchildren)
- The deceased’s parents and their children (the deceased’s siblings)
- The deceased’s grandparents and their issue (the deceased’s aunt’s and uncles)
More distant relatives can only inherit if they are beneficiaries in the deceased’s will.
Under the Inheritance Law of 1965, if a couple is married or shares a household as common-law partners and one of them dies without a will, the surviving spouse is entitled to the family car and the house contents. The family home and savings is shared between the surviving spouse, who gets half, and the children, among whom the other half is divided. A common-law spouse has the same rights as a legally married spouse in inheritances.
If the family home was registered in both spouses’ names, and one spouse dies without a will, only the deceased’s half is re-distributed in their estate. The surviving spouse will inherit half of this share – giving them in total three-quarters of the family home. The remaining quarter will be divided equally among the children.
Common-law spouses have the same inheritance rights as married couples. Thanks to New Family’s groundbreaking court appeals to assert same-sex inheritance rights, courts now tend to recognize the inheritance rights of same-sex common-law spouses.
An adopted child has the same inheritance rights as biological children. Though an adopted child is entitled to automatically inherit from their adoptive parent (when there is no will), a step-child is not, according to the 1965 Inheritance Act. A step-child is not included in the list of family members entitled to inherit when a person dies without living a will. If you wish to provide for a step-child in your will, you must specify the child by name.
Under the 1965 Inheritance Law, a baby born within 300 days of a deceased’s death is entitled to inherit. In cases where a new baby is born within 300 days of a father or grandparent’s death, the baby is entitled to inherit exactly as its siblings, unless there are instructions to the contrary in his will.
If there is no will and no heirs who are entitled to inherit, then the State of Israel will inherit the deceased’s estate. It will be used for educational, scientific, health and welfare purposes and may be redistributed to charitable causes by the Ministry of Justice according to a tender process.
New Family attorneys will offer you a range of legal mechanisms to ensure that your wishes are expressed in your will. The following contains a sample of some possible ways to make sure that your intentions are carried out. For example, if a couple agrees that they both wish to bequeath their property to their children after the second spouse dies, ‘mutual wills’ can be made. Potential problems can arise if the surviving spouse changes their will after their spouse’s death, or spends the assets, leaving little or nothing for the children to inherit according to the wishes of the first spouse to die. Alternatively, two spouses can each make their own will, with essentially identical provisions, to express their wishes.
Another option is a ‘successive heirs’ mechanism that allows you to bequest to two persons, when the second bequest is contingent on the death of the first beneficiary or on a specified pre-condition. Conversely, a ‘substituted heirs’ mechanism allows for the second heir to inherit if the first is disqualified from inheriting. A ‘conditional bequest’ wills that a beneficiary will only inherit if they fulfill a certain condition within in a designated period of time.
The Inheritance Law of 1965 prohibits the following people from inheriting:
(a) Anyone found guilty of causing or attempting to cause the intentional death of the testator.
(b) Anyone found guilty of destroying the last will or making it “disappear”.
(c) Anyone who forged a will or made a claim under a forged will.
When the Testator is Mentally Incapacitated
Naturally, some people making wills may be elderly, disabled, or mentally incapacitated due to senility or illness. If there is doubt about the testator’s mental state at the time the will is made, it is advisable for a doctor to examine the testator just before they make their will and make a written declaration on the testator’s mental capacity. This will help enforce the will should an objection be made based on claims that the testator lacked the legal capacity to make a will. To prove that a testator was not mentally fit to make a will, clear evidence must be provided in a court of law. Any family member benefiting from the will should not be present and should avoid any involvement in the writing of the will. It may be wise to use a video camera to document the making of a will when the testator’s mental capacity or free will may be contested.
A person who believes that their death is imminent is entitled to make a verbal or ‘deathbed’ will in the presence of two witnesses who will not benefit from the will. The witnesses must record what they hear and deposit the written record with the Inheritance Registrar as soon as possible. If a month after the verbal will is made and the testator is alive, it is automatically cancelled.
Executing a Will
The National Inheritance Register contains a computerized database of wills, memos of verbal wills, requests to enforce wills, or requests to divide a deceased’s estate according to the 1965 Inheritance Law. Following an individual’s death, an interested party can receive details from the National Inheritance Register, according to the Inheritance Regulations of 1998. For a will to be carried out, a request must be made for an order, called probate, to enforce the will. Usually, requests for probate are made to the Inheritance Registrar, but in certain circumstances, it will be to the family court or religious court. There is no time limit on requests to execute the will.
Probate is a legal order that declares that a will is valid, in whole or part, and is a binding declaration of inheritance rights according to that will. The Inheritance Registrar or court will grant probate when it is satisfied that the testator had the mental capacity to make a will, that the will represented their genuine, last wishes, and that it was made without influence or compulsion. Where there are competing wills that were properly made, the later one will invalidate the earlier one, entirely, or partially, depending on the content of each.
How to Object to a Will
When a request is made to execute a will, a notice will be published in the newspaper stating a deadline of at least 14 days for filing objections. The Inheritance Registrar will check on a national register to see if there are any competing wills filed in relation to the estate. If so, notice will be sent to the beneficiaries, who have 14 days from receipt of the notice to object. Strict procedural rules govern the submission of the written objection and require inclusion of an affidavit and other documentation supporting the objection. Any interested person can object to a will. Once objection is filed, the case is automatically transferred to a court to be heard, usually the family court, though it can be a religious court. The person objecting becomes the defendant.