When a spouse dies, if there is a surviving spouse (not divorced) and children born from this marriage, French inheritance law states that, in the absence of a will or gift, the surviving spouse can choose to inherit either all the assets of the deceased person in usufruct or a quarter of the assets in full ownership. Israeli law deals differently with the issue of wills and estates. It is therefore essential to get advice from an expert with knowledge of Israeli law.
In Israel, according to the law on the rights of the surviving spouse and child heirs, there are two ways of sharing the inheritance: the legal route and the testamentary route.
The legal route
If nothing has been planned, i.e. when the deceased has not written a will or it is invalid, it is necessary to follow the legal rules applicable in Israel, which include rules on sharing the inheritance between the surviving spouse and the inheriting children, and which are different from those under French law (outlined above). According to Israeli law, the statutory rule is that the property is divided equally between the surviving spouse and the children of the deceased.
Take the example of a man who dies while married (not divorced) and is the father of three children from the same marriage. The deceased is the owner of an apartment valued at a million shekels on the date of his death. When the heirs decide to sell said property, 50% of the amount of the sale will be deposited into his wife’s account (i.e., 500,000 shekels, and 50% will be divided equally between his three children). The amount obtained from the sale of the apartment will be divided equally between his three children, so that they each inherit 166,666.60 shekels, or get a property right equivalent to 16.6% of the property. (Taxes are not taken into consideration).
It is also possible for the children of the deceased to decide to leave their share of the inheritance in usufruct to the surviving spouse by signing a written statement before a solicitor relating to their withdrawal from the inheritance. Unlike in French law, this is not a legal option afforded to the surviving spouse, but rather to the children. Therefore, Israeli law does not offer the surviving spouse the same protection as under French law and their wishes may be different to those of some of their children, who prefer to receive their share of the inheritance.
Therefore, in order to ensure a better and smoother succession, it is advisable, in Israel, to anticipate the transfer of property by writing a will in the presence of a solicitor.
The testamentary route
Making a will ensures that, on the death of the testator, the surviving spouse is protected in the best possible way, and can, for example, be assured of initially receiving the entire inheritance. Only after their death will the children receive their share.
When using a certified solicitor, a number of documents will have to be provided:
1. An accurate and detailed list of all the existing property and assets held by the testator.
2. A photocopy of the testator’s identity card and that of the heirs.
3. If the testator is a person who is particularly elderly or sick, it is preferable to obtain a certificate from a doctor indicating that the testator is in full possession of their mental faculties and thus able to write their will.
In Israel, the solicitor will perform the role equivalent to that of a French notary and will be authorised to receive the will, which will be drafted by the latter and signed by the testator in their presence.
Once the will has been signed before the solicitor, it is advisable to keep a copy of it in a safe place. It is worth storing it in a sealed envelope in a safe.
Information is not a substitute for legal advice.
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