Skip to main content

Introduction: Overview of Israeli Inheritance Law

Inheritance law in Israel is governed by the Succession Law of 1965 (‘Succession Law’) and is handled by the Israeli Inheritance Registrar. According to the law, a person’s estate passes on to their heirs upon death. This may happen in two ways: by will or by law. This article will focus on critical issues regarding Israel’s inheritance by will and probate. See “Succession Law in Israel – Inheritance by Law” for a detailed explanation of inheritance by law in Israel.

Principles of Inheritance by Will

The fundamental principle of inheritance is that people are free to distribute their property as they see fit. Therefore, the succession law is contingent on the existence of a will. A valid will overrides the default stipulations of the law regarding the identity of the heirs and the distribution of the estate. A valid will may even annul an existing succession order (for instance, in cases where the will was uncovered only after the succession order was granted).

Roles and Boundaries of a Will

A will expresses a person’s wishes regarding his affairs upon his death. It is not necessarily limited to property alone, although the issue of property is central. It is a binding legal document. A will may be particular, detailing distinct instructions regarding one’s property and heirs. It may also be general, outlining only the general boundaries of its execution.

Ensuring an Updated Will

A will is not subject to obsolescence, and there is no limit on the number of wills a person may create. However, it is essential to note that the last valid will (chronologically) is the deciding one, overriding any former, older wills (unless the ‘new will’ is found faulty to the point of unlawfulness by a court of law). It is essential to ensure that a will is up to date, especially if any changes, for instance, marriage, divorce, the acquisition of new property, etc., have occurred.

Types of Wills Recognized in Israel

Jaffa Port IsraelThe law in Israel recognizes four types of wills:

– Handwritten Wills

(Section 19) The Hand Written Will must be written entirely in the testator’s handwriting (Note! A handwritten signature is not enough) and must bear the date of its composition and the testator’s handwriting.

– Wills in the Presence of Witnesses

(Section 20) This type of will shall be in writing, bear the date of its composition, and must be signed by the testator and two witnesses on that same date. It is recommended that one of the witnesses be an attorney specializing in wills to prevent mistakes in the will that may cause its annulment after the testator’s death.

– Wills in the Presence of an Authority

(Section 22) This may be submitted in writing or recited orally in front of a judge, the inheritance registrar, a member of a religious court, or a notary. The will must be accompanied by the testator’s testimony that this is indeed his will and must be signed and authorized by the authority.

– Oral Wills on Death Bed

(Section 23) Also known as ‘Death Bed Will,’ this type of will is possible only if and when the testator is on his or her death bed or believes he or she is facing imminent death (if the circumstances lend themselves to this belief). The will must be made in the presence of two witnesses who understand the testator’s tongue, and they must also put the will in writing, including its actual content, the date of its composition, and the circumstances which brought about its composition in such a fashion. The will must then be deposited to the Inheritance Registrar’s Bureau. An oral will is void if, within 30 days of its creation, the testator is still alive and the circumstances that justified its making have passed.

Depositing a Will at the Inheritance Registrar’s Bureau

Once made, a will may be deposited at the Inheritance Registrar’s Bureau. This is not a mandatory step, but it has significant advantages, such as proof of the existence of the will and assurance that the will will be preserved and not lost. Depositing a will at the Registrar is entirely technical – the Registrar does not check or vouch for the will’s validity on such an occasion. It is recommended that an attorney be consulted in such matters. Also, the content of the will and even the knowledge of whether a will has been deposited are kept secret, even from heirs according to the will (so long as the testator is alive).

Execution of Wills: The Probate Order

An heir or anyone interested in executing a will may bring about its execution only through a probate order, which the Inheritance Registrar grants. A probate order declares the validity and authenticity of an existing will. The probate order validates the content of the

will and gives it the same binding legal status as a court verdict. The request for a probate order is publicized to allow objections to the will to be made.

Limitations of the Probate Order

If the will specifies only some of the deceased’s property, the probate order will only be valid regarding the property mentioned in the will. The probate order does not suffer from obsolescence as it has the same status as a court verdict.

Procedure for Requesting a Probate Order

A request for a probate order must include the following documents:

  • Two receipts: proof of payment of the government levy on submitting a request from the Postal Bank of Israel.
  • A Probate Order Request Form signed by the submitter and verified by an attorney, notary, judge, or local council head.
  • An original death certificate or a copy faithful to the original.
  • The original will, or, in case of its absence, a separate request to submit a copy of the original will, which includes why the original will may not be submitted, as well as proof of payment of government levy for the request.
  • Notices to all remaining heirs notifying them of the Probate Order Request, including the heirs above’ signatures or confirmation of delivery of the notices by registered mail.

Additional Requirements for Non-Israeli Residents

Suppose the deceased’s residence was not Israel, alongside the documents above. In that case, the request must include additional documents, including proof of the existence of assets (such as the proof of ownership from a Land Registrar, authorization of an active bank account, etc.). All foreign documents must bear the signature of the Israel Consulate in the country in which they were made. Documents in any foreign language must be translated into Hebrew. The translations must bear the signature of a notary.

Contact Rahav Aharoni for a Free Consultation

We are in Tel Aviv, with offices in New York and Los Angeles, California. We invite you to schedule a complimentary consultation with our firm to learn how we can solve your Israeli legal and business matters.

We represent international clients from the United States, Canada, the UK, Europe, and Israel. Please get in touch with us from the US or Canada at 1.888.923.0022 or in Israel at (972) 3.9055478 or (972) 50.7322688 to schedule a discussion about your case.

Rahav D. Aharoni, Adv

My expertise lies in assisting heirs and clients in the identification and acquisition of inherited assets in Israel, resolving estate and real estate conflicts, and facilitating transactions involving Israeli real estate, investments, and businesses. I am dedicated to helping my clients build equity and achieve their goals.