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Wills and Wont's – Immigrants Take Note

The second in a short series about Wills: this is of special interest to immigrants to Israel.

You’ve finally decided to make will – excellent decision.

You now have a great opportunity to gather and organize all the information about your assets and liabilities, particularly regarding property purchased a long time ago or in another country. It’s quite possible that nobody else is familiar with the exact details of your house, flat, piece of land, or even your foreign bank account.

It is therefore really important that, alongside your will, you leave details which will enable your family to locate your bank account details or real estate title information, shares and bonds, funds or any other assets you may have abroad.

In Israel, ownership of registered property is identified by block and parcel numbers. Ownership of unregistered property is through production of evidence such as the purchase agreement and documentation from State sources. Be aware that if you have purchased any property or opened any bank account with a foreign passport, you should make sure that you do not discard your old passport. Alternatively, take steps to update the land registry with your new passport number.

You should also consider the establishment a trust – this may have future tax benefits.

A Separate Will for my Property in Israel?

If you already have a will abroad, the question that usually arises is whether you need a separate will to cover your property in Israel. The Israeli courts recognize a foreign will and so you can have a single will for your entire worldwide property holdings. However, I prefer to draw up a separate will for property in Israel. With this arrangement you can appoint local executors and you can make specific instructions with regard to your Israeli estate.

A will in Israel can be drafted in English and can be submitted to the relevant authority, although I have found that almost invariably I am required to make a translation of the document into Hebrew. Accordingly, I usually recommend that a will in Israel should be done in Hebrew if at all possible.

A vital point when drafting the second will is to make sure that it does not contradict any previous will.

Israeli Courts

Israeli courts have jurisdiction over an estate if the deceased was resident in Israel or if the estate includes Israeli assets. Your executors or beneficiaries will be required to apply for a probate order from an Israeli court to deal with your Israeli property. Even if a foreign court has already given probate, there is no automatic recognition of this grant in Israel.

Application must be made to the Registrar of Succession Matters, together with a copy of the will (which should, if at all possible, be an original). If the deceased is a foreign resident, a legal opinion from an expert on the relevant law of the country where the deceased was living, must be submitted to confirm that the will is valid. The application for probate is published in a newspaper and notices are sent to the beneficiaries informing them of the rights under the estate.

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