If you own a property, have funds in a bank account or own other assets in Israel, we strongly suggest that you consider drafting a separate Israeli will.
If your intention is that your assets should pass to your heirs as efficiently and quickly as possible, you will achieve that by having a separate will for your property in Israel for the following reasons:
- Foreign wills are usually complex and contain trusts and other tax planning structures which serve a purpose in your country of residence but which may not be effective in Israel. As a result, it can be much quicker and simpler to get probate of a simple will covering only property in Israel.
Death is not a taxable event in Israel and there is currently no inheritance or estate tax.
- The probate registry has a discretion to accept documents in English but they are less likely to do so if the will is long and complex.
- The Israeli court will not appoint executors who are not resident in Israel so you may wish to provide for separate executors here.
- An original will is required for probate here and in the absence of this, a specific application must be made to allow a copy to be submitted.
- Identification here is by number and not by name and so it is extremely important to have a will which identifies the testator by the number with which s/he is registered as the owner of their Israeli property (usually passport numbers for non-Israeli citizens).
If you make Aliyah (take up Israeli citizenship) at any future date, we strongly suggest that all assets are re-registered with their Israeli ID numbers and that the wills are updated to refer to this number for identification purposes.
If you do wish to prepare a separate will for your property in Israel, you should be aware of the following:
- Identification is by number and not by name, so you will need to provide a copy of the relevant identification document (ID card, passport etc.)
- Please note that life insurance policies and certain investments do not form part of your estate and will automatically pass to the beneficiary registered on the policy in the event of your death. You should ensure that the beneficiaries listed on the policy are correct.
- Property in Israel is registered by block and parcel number, so this information should be obtained. If the property in Israel is registered with a passport number, please check that this is the number of your current passport and a certified copy of this should be kept with your will.
- If you are making a joint will with your spouse, you should consider whether you wish to allow the surviving partner to alter his or her will after the death of the first partner. The default position in Israel is that the surviving partner cannot alter their will without returning property inherited from their spouse under mutual will.
- For Jewish couples: if you are a married man and are not leaving all your property to your wife, you may wish to note whether the bequest to your wife includes her entitlement under her Ketubah (marriage contract).
- Israeli law does not require you to appoint an executor but it may be advisable if none of your beneficiaries are resident in Israel or if you wish to have a professional or other non-family member dealing with your estate. Since property devolves directly on the heirs at death, in the absence of an executor, the heirs will apply for a probate order and then transfer the assets accordingly.
- You may also include provisions relating to guardianship of any minor children. These will not be binding on the court but will allow you to express a preference to be taken into account.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.