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Wills and probate

Succession rules

What rules and restrictions (if any) govern the disposition of and succession to an individual’s property and assets in your jurisdiction?

According to the Succession Law (5725-1965), there is testamentary freedom in Israel. There are no forced heirship rules and a person can bequeath their estate as they wish. That said, a spouse, a minor or disabled child or dependent parents may be entitled to support from the estate under certain circumstances.

Intestacy

What rules and procedures govern intestacy?

According to the Succession Law (5725-1965), the following persons are eligible to inherit in the event that the deceased does not leave a will:

  • the deceased’s spouse;
  • the deceased’s children and their issue;
  • the deceased’s parents and their issue; and
  • the deceased’s grandparents and their issue.

If the deceased left a spouse and children, both the spouse and the children inherit 50% of the estate. The deceased’s parents will not inherit if there is a spouse and issue. In order to distribute the estate, a succession order must be applied for, which will detail the list of heirs and their share of the estate.

Governing law

What rules and restrictions (if any) apply to the governing law of a will?

The applicable law on inheritance is the law of the deceased’s place of residence at the time of their death. The applicable law is the law of the deceased’s place of residence at the time of making their will. A will is valid with respect to its form if it is made according to:

  • Israeli law;
  • the laws of the place where it was signed; or
  • the laws of the place of residence or citizenship of the testator when they signed the will or at the time of their death.

As regards real estate, a will is valid with respect to its form if it is made according to the laws of the place where the real estate is located.

Formalities

What are the formal and procedural requirements to make a will? Are wills and other estate documents publicly available?

Wills can be:

  • handwritten, in which case they should be written entirely by the testator, signed and dated;
  • made in front of witnesses, in which case they should be signed in front of two witnesses who are over 18 years old and are not beneficiaries under the will or a spouse of a beneficiary;
  • made in front of an authority; and
  • made orally (where the testator is on their death bed).

The testator should be over 18 years old and capable of understanding the meaning of the will. Wills are not public until the testator’s death. After a probate order is granted, the will is presented, along with the probate order, to banks (among other parties) in order to release the estate assets.  

Validity and amendment

How can the validity of a will be challenged? Can the will be amended after the decedent’s death?

A will cannot be amended after the testator’s death. However, the beneficiaries may sign an allocation agreement and agree among themselves a different allocation of the estate’s assets. The validity of the will can be challenged if:

  • the testator was a minor, was incapable of making a will or did not understand the meaning of a will;
  • the will was not signed properly according to the rules of making a will; or
  • the testator was under duress, undue influence, coercion or threat.

How is the validity of a will established in your jurisdiction?

After a testator’s death, their will must be submitted to probate. If a probate order is granted by the registrar of inheritance or the Family Court, as applicable, the will is valid and may be implemented.

To what extent are foreign wills recognised? Do any special rules and procedures apply to establishing their validity in your jurisdiction?

Foreign wills are recognised provided that they are probated in Israel. The Israeli courts will have jurisdiction over the estate if the deceased was an Israeli resident or left assets in Israel. If the original will cannot be submitted, a copy may be submitted, with authorisation and an explanation as to why the original cannot be submitted. In addition, a foreign law opinion must be submitted to confirm the will’s validity according to said foreign law.

Estate administration

What rules and procedures govern:

(a) The appointment of estate administrators?

The Succession Law (5725-1965) and the Succession Regulations (5758-1998) govern the appointment of estate administrators by the registrar of inheritance or the Family Court. Administrators are subject to supervision by the court and the general custodian.

(b) Consolidation and administration of the estate?

The Succession Law (5725-1965) and the Succession Regulations (5758-1998) govern the consolidation and administration of estates.

(c) Distribution of the estate to heirs?

The Succession Law (5725-1965) and the Succession Regulations (5758-1998) govern the distribution of an estate to heirs. The court and the general custodian supervise the distribution.

(d) Settlement of the decedent’s debts and payment of any taxes and fees?

The Succession Law (5725-1965) and the Succession Regulations (5758-1998) govern the settlement of a decedent’s debts and the payment of any taxes and fees.

Planning considerations

Are there any special considerations specific to your jurisdiction that individuals should bear in mind during succession planning?

No.

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