Estates and inheritances

The assets of a deceased person transfer to his or her inheritors by law in accordance with the provisions of the Inheritance Law and/or any other relevant legal provisions. These assets transferring from the decedent to the heirs are defined in the legal language as the “estate of the deceased.” This estate is distributed to the heirs of the deceased in accordance with the order of preference listed in the Inheritance Law or in accordance with the provisions of a last will and testament duly prepared by the deceased.

The estate of the deceased shall be divided between and transferred to the heirs only after an inheritance order and/or probate order is issued by the Registrar of Inheritances or the Rabbinical Court or the Family Court.

The Legal Heirs under the Israeli Inheritance Law

The Inheritance Law, 5765-1965, determines the identity of the heirs in accordance with the law in the event that the decedent does not leave a valid will that was executed according to the applicable law.

When surviving a deceased spouse as well as children or parents, a spouse receives all the possessions and vehicles belonging to the joint household as well as half of the estate. The second half of the estate is divided among the children of the deceased. In case the decedent left no offspring, his or her parents will be the heirs of the second half of the estate, as mentioned above.

If the deceased left behind a spouse without children or parents but has living siblings and their offspring or has grandparents, the spouse receives the property and the vehicle belonging to the communal household, as well as all the rights to the residence – provided that the deceased and the couple were married at least three years prior to the death of the deceased, as well as two-thirds of the balance of the estate. The remaining third is transferred to the brothers and their offspring and, to the extent there are no living brothers and their descendants, the grandparents inherit the remaining third.

If the deceased left behind only a spouse without children, grandchildren, siblings, nephews or grandparents, then the spouse inherits the entire estate.

If the deceased has no surviving spouse but has children, the estate will then be distributed equally among the children.

If the deceased left behind children, but one of them died before the date of death of the deceased, if that child him- or herself had children, those children (grandchildren of the deceased) are entitled to receive and divide their parent’s share of the estate.

If the decedent is survived by no siblings, all the assets of the estate will be distributed to the parents, and if they themselves die, then to their offspring. If the deceased is survived only by a grandfather and grandmother, all the assets of the estate will be distributed to those grandparents.

When the deceased died and no family members left behind, all his property escheats to the state.

Drafting a Valid Will

Wills can be drafted in a number of ways, with the most common being a will executed before two witnesses. In addition, there is a need for the drafter of a will to anticipate possible alternative scenarios that may arise in the future in the lives of his or her heirs as well as to genuinely attempt to assist the testator in expressing his or her true wishes for his or her estate, taking into account the needs and character of the heirs in a such a way as to prevent and/or reduce future conflicts and disputes that often can be highly disruptive and unpleasant for families and/or work to the detriment of the wishes of the testator him- or herself.

When Is It Advisable to Appoint an Executor?

Sometimes after a person’s death, it is necessary to appoint an executor. Sometimes the court will appoint an executor in accordance with the detailed instructions of the deceased as expressed in his or her will and sometimes will appoint an executor due to other circumstances such as the existence of multiple heirs, disputes between heirs that do not allow the instructions of the testator to be carried out until an agreement or compromise has been reached, or in the case of multiple assets to be managed.

The estate manager’s job is to collect, preserve, and manage the assets of the decedent, in order to benefit the heirs. In order to manage the estate, the estate manager opens a trust account (in the Israeli sense of an estate escrow account) in which he concentrates all the financial assets of the estate, the fruits of the assets and pays all the taxes that apply to the assets and the income.

The estate manager is appointed by the Registrar of Inheritance Affairs and/or the Family Court. If the testator specified in his or her will who will manage the estate and/or there is agreement among all heirs to appoint a specific executor, except in exceptional cases, the court will appoint the executor of the estate according to the will and/or the consent of the heirs. In the case of no specification in the will and/or a person who dies intestate, and/or no consent between the heirs, then the court shall appoint an executor of the estate at the court’s discretion.

The executor is responsible for all estate assets and is subject to the court’s instructions. The executor shall submit an annual report to the Israeli Custodian General, and the report shall be given a financial report, as well as a report on the director’s activities and the status of the estate. When the executor of the estate has completed his duties, he shall submit a final report containing all the financial and other activities he has performed during the period in which he managed the estate.

Estates and inheritances – Why Do You Need a Lawyer?

In order to formulate a will that will properly set forth the intentions of the deceased, and in order to ensure that his or her will is properly executed after the testator’s demise, an expert professional lawyer is needed. Drafting a will by an attorney can prevent unnecessary disputes and tensions between the heirs and can ensure the intentions of the deceased are carried out to the extent possible.

In order to transfer the deceased’s property either via last will and testament of the deceased or under the Inheritance Law if there is no valid will, a legal action is required to file an application for an order of inheritance or a probate order for executing a decedent’s will. The application must be submitted to the Registrar of Inheritance Affairs, and at the end of the process, the heirs receive an inheritance order and/or a probate order for the decedent’s will stating that they are the sole heirs entitled to receive the deceased’s assets.

When disputes arise in carrying out the will between the heirs, a professional lawyer can handle the matter and reach agreements that will satisfy all parties.

A skilled lawyer can assist in dividing the assets of the estate among the heirs by avoiding unnecessary tax consequences for the heirs. Although there are no estate taxes in Israel, a faulty distribution of estate assets may result in unnecessary tax payments. Only proper planning of the distribution of the estate will reduce the tax obligations or prevent such tax obligations completely in accordance with the relevant laws.

The lawyer appointed by the executor or a lawyer appointed as executor needs to understand how to represent the interests of the heirs vis-à-vis creditors, in a situation where there are creditors, and will ensure the proper and effective management of the estate.

We have accumulated extensive experience in the drafting of a variety of last wills and testaments, in the implementation of wills after the death of the testators, and in the management of estates. We provide professional representation in all matters relating to inheritance and estates professionally and with the required sensitivity.

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