(Updated October 30, 2019) - In Israel, thousands of unclaimed Israeli real estate assets totaling 15 billion Israeli Shekels currently remain unclaimed. Some of these Israeli properties are owned by Jewish Holocaust victims who invested before or after Israel was created or founded, others are owned by individuals who themselves or their heirs resided in other parts of the world. These dormant, abandoned assets include mostly land, developed real estate, bank accounts, stocks and bonds.
For many years now, as I help families reclaim their Israeli property and asset inheritance, I know first-hand the challenges facing their cases – from proving ownership, to understanding the capital gains tax implications, to ultimately ensuring a smooth probate (or probates) and a successful sale of the land.
Locating unclaimed land or abandoned property in Israel is complex, like piecing together a puzzle. It involves many steps and requires an Israeli attorney specialist who can skillfully determine a case’s unique approach and strategy based on many factors, including economically to the heirs/clients.
This article provides a guide for how to find and win the case in abandoned property, land, and real estate in Israel, including:
- The Estate Process for Reclaiming Abandoned Land in Israel
- Getting the Right Attorney and Advice Early
- Unclaimed dormant Israeli bank accounts and Israeli Assets (funds, insurance policies, bank accounts, etc.)
Proving Ownership of Dormant Israeli Property
Oftentimes, the beneficiaries / heirs don’t know about the inherited abandoned property or estate in Israel. Their grandparent may have purchased the land for very little 70 years ago and, since it remained of little value for decades, eventually, they may have forgotten or abandoned it. Sometimes the heirs have a vague idea that there may be any asset or property in Israel, but more often they receive a letter from the state notifying them of the unclaimed Israeli real estate.
“Abandoned property” is defined in Israel’s Law as an asset to which no one is entitled and able to be treated as owners, or an asset whose owner is unknown.
Determining ownership of lost, abandoned or unclaimed real estate and financial assets in Israel needs a diligent Israeli attorney with a deep understanding of Israeli real estate, inheritance and probate laws who specializes in conducting a proper investigation to trace land and asset ownership.
In most cases, the title and ownership of the asset is still listed under the name of the original buyer(s) who passed away many years ago. Proving relations to the original owner(s) involves a detailed process that begins with drawing up a family tree.
In the initial consultation, I review with the client and the family their available documents and recommend a strategy for their unclaimed Israeli inheritance case. Yet, I always get an even clearer picture once I see the family tree and analyze its marriage relationships and blood lines horizontally and vertically to determine how the Israeli inheritance passes to its legal heirs.
The order in which ancestors passed away can influence how an unclaimed Israeli property is divided among direct and indirect heirs. For this reason, we gather all relevant data to clarify both the lineage and chronology of the family tree.
The most efficient way for our clients to get started in reclaiming dormant estates or real estate in Israel is to simply provide our firm with all supportive documents for the owner and all heirs who have passed away, including:
- Wills, Trusts, and Codicil documents if they exist
- Identification documents
- Death certificates
- Birth certificates
- Brit Milah documentation
- Naturalization documentation
- Passport information
- ANY supportive document signed by the deceased who's name is on the title aka Tabu.
These family documents build genealogical evidence to accomplish two things: verify original legal ownership and substantiate the rightful heirs in one scheme.
Providing the owner’s identification or passport number may help start the process to locating the dormant property or estate in Israel. Our firm uses this information to determine the landowner’s current and, if different, historic title, as well as his or her Israeli ID (or Palestinian ID prior to 1948) or international ID number from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Europe, Australia, or other country of residence.
Sometimes the family has few heirs and less documents to assemble, but, more often, the process of gathering documentation will require an organized effort and even assistance from our legal team. Efforts can also depend on the owner’s and heirs’ countries of residence. We always recommend that the family designate a team leader a single point of contact to collect all documentation and communicate with all relatives involved.
By gathering all documentation to validate the family tree, we are better equipped to estimate the value of an Israeli inheritance property to its heirs and to outline the many steps that the case will follow.
Estimating a Property’s Value
Pursuing abandoned Israeli property cases can result in fruitful returns for the heirs, but some cases could lead to a dead end. A skilled Israeli attorney who specializes in reclaiming Israeli property and assets can spot issues early and inform you of matters that may complicate a case or reduce its estimated final value.
Understanding the Israeli real estate market is key to getting an idea of the potential value of the property’s eventual sale and, thus, the anticipated value to the heirs. Reclaiming an Israeli inheritance property involves many factors, so it helps to have an experienced Israeli attorney who can advise on the full process from start to sale.
My legal specialization in reclaiming Israeli properties is enhanced by my 20 years in Israeli real estate. My clients find it very informative and productive in their decision making to be able to inquire about both the legal process and the end goal of selling the property. As an added benefit, we save our clients from paying brokerage fees and connect them to resources as needed.
Tax Capital Gains and Historical Taxes for Unclaimed Israeli Assets:
Another factor in determining the value of a case is the tax implications of the dormant property or unclaimed Israeli asset. In Israel, Inheritance/Estate Tax is zero and are the same. Yet, depending on the type of asset, a capital gains tax is assessed when selling the property. Also, the year in which the owner purchased a property may require a different bracket of taxes. For example any land that was purchased prior to 1948 will have historical tax. Again, we have vast experience in tax planing and will be able to inform you of the tax implications and make a capital gain tax planing or even submit an appeal and optimize a case’s overall return from the land sale.
Probate or Probates? Confirming and Transferring Ownership
Once all documentation has been prepared and the case deemed practical to pursue, we begin the probate process, which seeks the release of the Israeli dormant property or asset and transfer of its ownership to the rightful heirs.
I assist direct and indirect heirs with locating and reclaiming abandoned property, estates and other dormant assets in Israel. Whether a client wishes to reclaim land or any other financial asset in Israel, the asset can be released from the State of Israel only by a probate/s process and a family court order that will determine the rightful heirs and new owners.
The probate / inheritance / succession process involves many steps to legally identify and transfer asset ownership, including:
- Verify the heirs with supporting documentation
- Prepare and execute the probate petition including an FLO - Foreign Law Opinion.
- Affidavit of the petitioner signed in the Israeli consulate.
- Serve the legal heirs.
- Translation of the probate petition/s and supportive affidavit of the petitioner.
- Obtain death certificate(s) with an Apostille.
- E-filing the probate petition/s. Will and or trust by law needs to be submitted physically.
- Registrar and from there to family court.
- Receive a decree / court order/s from the Israeli Family Court.
After all heirs have been legally verified, we prepare the probate petition/s and serve the legal heirs. We also must obtain death certificate(s) with an Apostille for all deceased heirs. In most cases, document translation is needed when heirs reside in other countries.
Ultimately, the probate process submitted in the registrar and from there go to family court in order to get a decree or succession order. With this decree, also referred to as a probate order, an average of EACH probate can take between 6-10 months and rightful heirs can submit a request to register inheritance to register the decree/court order in the Israel land registry and title office on their names in 14 days.
As you can see, probate involves a full process and various procedures in the Israeli registrar (the equivalent of surrogate court) and Israeli Family Court and eventually the land registry. It is very time-consuming and demands hard thinking, attention to many details and a lot of hard work. They often involve multiple probate processes, document translation, and skillful negotiations. Cases to reclaim abandoned property or assets in Israel can take on average 1-3 years and sometimes even more. You want a legal firm that keeps on top of every step and ensures the process is running as efficiently and fast as possible.
Once ownership is confirmed, a sale of the property needs to be transacted and finalized. By executing this final step for our clients and their families, we save the client the broker’s fees and ensure an efficient sale of the property so that each heir receives their portion according to the probate/s court order.
Getting the Right Attorney and Advice Early
Working with a trusted, hard working, highly qualified Israeli attorney ensures you have a full accurate picture of what to anticipate.
My clients usually become aware of a possible unclaimed Israeli inheritance by one of two ways. They receive either:
- A letter from the State of Israel Administrator General & Official Receiver Re:Rights to property in Israel in the name of X. File: GM/EG/G # , or
- A letter or a phone call from a land hunter that is not Israeli attorney and is not allowed to practice law in Israel
When contacted by the State of Israel, clients may think that the State can handle the process for transferring asset ownership to the heirs. The State is not allowed to do the legal work necessary to reclaim an Israeli inheritance. Their sole job by law is to inform the relatives, offspring's of the dormant land or asset in Israel.
In the second scenario, land hunters in Israel and the U.S. make it as a side job to seek out abandoned property in Israel. They function as a broker, which means they don’t have any fiduciary obligations to the heirs to accurately represent the property’s estimated value and discuss capital gain taxes or any other rights or liabilities. A lot of misinformation can result from their efforts. In some cases families come to us after land hunters try to sign them on illegal representation agreement that commit the families to 30-40% of the property while hiding the block and parcel of the land and other crucial facts about the land, the fact they are not Israeli attorneys and are not allowed to practice law in the state of Israel. In some cases the land hunters brings the buyers and sell the land in a low price while the heirs been left in the dark.
Frequently, I get calls from heirs wondering if the letter or phone call they received is valid. We first do the homework to determine if there is a legitimate and viable claim. Early on during the initial meetings, I review factors surrounding the abandoned Israeli property and can advise whether to pursue the case.
It can be stressful when relying on a non - professional who does not disclose all the facts, only to discover after much effort that the case has reached a dead end.
For many reasons, working directly with a diligent Israeli attorney who specialize in this niche area is crucial. Since the search and probate/s process to reclaim abandoned real estate in Israel requires an attorney, working with a land hunter who acts as a middle man results in added costs and damage to the families. Our attorneys are legally bound to work on your behalf and will handle your case privately and confidentially. Sometimes cases involve multiple heirs with different objectives. These cases are best handled by an expert attorney who approaches the case with sensitivity and diplomacy, and operates confidentially and diligently in your best interest.
Dormant Account In Israeli Bank or Unclaimed Israeli Assets
Although we have focused on locating dormant, unclaimed Israeli estate, real estate, property and land thus far, there are many other types of abandoned and dormant assets in Israel that can be classified as “unclaimed assets.” Examples include bank accounts, pension funds, provident funds, education funds, life insurance policies, executive insurance policies, dormant bank accounts, various savings plans, dividends and stocks, to name a few. These funds can be held and/or managed by financial institutions, insurance companies, pension funds, hospitals, clinics, corporations, government agencies and Israeli government corporations.
Working With Israeli Banks and Institutions
Given the complicated bureaucracy of Israeli institutions, the research, due diligence, and the Israeli probate/s process can only be handled by a competent, persistent Israeli attorney experienced and has a lot of tenacity with locating ownership of an abandoned property and assets in Israel. This attorney must also be highly skilled in cases seeking the release of Israeli dormant assets and property in order to manage the lengthy process efficiently and transfer the title to the rightful heirs. Our law firm has resolved many cases of this nature, and we are well-situated to help you with all the right tools to locate the dormant property or asset in Israel and accomplish the legal transfer of Israeli assets.
We specialize in reclaiming abandoned or dormant property and financial assets in Israel and know exactly what to do and how to do. Working with us is very cost-efficient and time-efficient for our clients. With offices in Israel and the US, we stay on top of the process at all times and time zones. Please view our many recommendations. We are happy to provide a complimentary consultation to get you started right away and accomplish the mission.
The Aharoni Law represents international clients from the United States, Canada, the UK, Europe, and Israel. Please contact 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 complimentary consultation.