Litigation and Dispute Resolution.
Writing a will in Israel should be done with an understanding of inheritance law in Israel. The purpose of the inheritance law is to fulfill the will of the deceased. Respecting the will of the deceased is a principle that draws from the Jewish heritage, and its central expression is found in the Israeli law.
The will reflects the autonomy of the testator and various principles in the Israeli law are intended to determine the validity of the will and to examine whether the will indeed reflects the wishes of the testator. The law aims to protect the testator’s interests, and two main principles govern that notion in the Israeli inheritance law:
- A person may change his will in Israel – cancel it and re-edit it until his last day. Any agreement or obligation limiting this principle will not be enforced. This principle characterizes the Israeli legal system, but there are countries, such as the United States and England, that recognize the validity of such restrictive obligations.
- Interpretation of the will be according to the testator’s intent as implied in his/her will, and if it is not implied in it – then as it is implied by the circumstances which led to the execution of the will. The Supreme Court of Israel has ruled, with regard to the interpretation of a will, that the language of the will is “the body” and the intent of the testator is “the soul.”
In light of the importance of examining the intention of the will, it is imperative to write a will in Israel in accordance with the rules outlined in Israeli case laws. Here are some important principles to keep in mind when drafting a will in Israel:
- The title “Will” or “Mutual Will” must be at the top of the first page. It is crucial that the testator will be aware that he is assigning his/her property after his death and, in fact, be able to distinguish between his/her will to any other document he is drafting.
- The date of the will – When trying to argue that the will was not legally qualified, it is important to understand exactly when the will was written.
- Clear language – The content of the will must also be clear and understandable for any person. There is no need to use sophisticated legal language.
- Prior wills – If the testator has written a previous will, it is best to state explicitly that the previous will is null and void and that the current will take its place.
- Breakdown of assets – The court’s ruling made it clear that when one writes a will in Israel he/she must know to whom he/she is bequeathing his/her property and what is this property.
- Details of the heirs – it is better to write explicitly who the heirs are – full names according to their identification cards, and not to write, for example, “I bequeath everything to my children”. It is also recommended to write an up-to-date address and telephone numbers and any other relevant information about the heirs in order it would be easier to locate them.
- If there is a family member or heir for whom the testator has decided not to give him/her any part of the estate, it is worth explaining why – in order to avoid any lack of clarity in the future if that person decides to oppose the will and claim that he or her was forgotten by the testator.
- Signature on every page – It is recommended that the testator sign each page of the will. The Supreme Court has ruled that there is no obligation to sign every page of the will, but it is advisable to do so.
- Signature of witnesses – There is no obligation for the will to be performed before witnesses, but the testator must sign before the witnesses and this cannot be waived.
The will is a very special document. It is a legal document, but it is actually a document that constitutes a person’s personal letter, and includes wishes, loves, feelings, and in it we can notice the person’s deep thoughts about what will happen after his death. The will is the first stop after the death of the testator.
Israeli law recognizes several types of wills:
- A Handwritten Will – A will written entirely by the testator and signed by him, with the will also including the date it was conducted.
- A Will in the Presence of Witnesses – A written will signed by a testator who declares to two witnesses that this is his will. Both the testator and the witnesses sign the will which bears the date on which it was conducted. It is recommended that the a qualified attorney in Israel who specializes in wills and inheritance law will be in charge of drafting the will in order to prevent any defects that might invalidate the will.
- A Will Made Before an Authority in Israel – The law in Israel also allows a written or oral will to be made before a judge or the Inheritance Registrar or an Israeli Notary.
- Oral Will – Known also as a “Deathbed Will”. If Testator is on his / her deathbed, or views himself / herself as being in such a situation, the law in Israel allows such a will.
Mutual Wills in Israel
Inheritance law in Israel allows spouses to make a mutual will, with one spouse relying on the other spouse’s will. Choosing this option of mutual will in Israel allows the couple to limit their steps regarding each of their ability to change their will in the future.
The main significance of a mutual will in Israel is that the contents of the will cannot be changed without notifying the other spouse as long as the other spouse is alive.
The issue of mutual will is a relatively new issue in Israel, and it is worth remembering that a mutual will between partners is not possible everywhere.
According to French law, for example, it is impossible to make a mutual will between spouses, even if the will is done in favor of a third person.
In English law, mutual wills are contrary to the general principle that a you can always change your will. However, in order to recognize the binding validity of reciprocal wills, explicit consent must be shown between the parties not to alter or revoke their wills. Such an agreement cannot prevent the testator in a mutual will from repeating or altering his will, but the breach of the obligation can establish grounds for a claim for compensation under the law in the United Kingdom.
According to Israeli law, the only interest is protecting the intentions of the testator. The interpretation of a will in Israel is unlike any other legal document. This is not an interpretation of a law, which is accessible to proceedings prior to its legislation and purposes. This is not an interpretation of a contract that the parties to are usually alive and they or the circumstances indicate the intentions at the time of drafting the contract. Interpreting wills in Israel requires examining a sheet of paper that contains the words of the deceased, and in order to uphold the will of the deceased we must hear his voice, understand his words and listen to his wishes if we want to understand what the testator has implied.