The Probate of a Foreign Will in the Israeli Court System
What happens when a foreign resident who owns property in Israel dies? What happens to his Israeli property? Very simply, it goes to his heirs. If the deceased left a will then the property will go to those heirs mentioned in the will. Even if we are talking about a foreign resident who was living abroad at the time of his death, his Israeli property will go to the heirs mentioned in his will, assuming that the will is valid under the laws of his country of residence.
Here are the steps for the probate of a foreign will in Israel:
- The foreign must first go through the probate process in the country in which the deceased lived at the time of his death.
- The original will (with original signatures) together with the probate order is then sent to Israel.
- A request for the probate of the foreign will is submitted to the Registrar of Inheritances in the district where the property is located. Attached to this request is the original copy of the will and a certified copy of the probate order from the foreign country, a certified copy of the death certificate, and a legal opinion from a lawyer well versed in the law of the country where the will originated. Notices must be sent to the heirs that this procedure was begun.
- The Registrar of Inheritances then sends the file to the Family Court in the city in which the Registrars office is located.
- A copy of the file is sent to the District Attorney for approval. If the will is a simple one then the District Attorney should have no objection to the probate of the will in Israel. If the will is complicated, then the District Attorney may ask for more documents or explanations.
- Very often the District Attorney requests a notarized translation of the will into Hebrew. Depending on the length of the will this can be expensive.
- A notice is placed in a daily newspaper and the official government publication that a request for probate was submitted. This is done to allow anyone who would like to contest the will to do so. If no one contests the will within the requisite period of time, and the District Attorney has no objections, then the probate order will be given.
- If someone contests the will, the case will go to trial. This is rare when dealing with a will that was already probated in a foreign county. One can successfully contest a will if one can prove that the deceased was mentally incapacitated when he made the will or that he was coerced into signing the will or did not understand the will. If that is the case, it would seem incomprehensible that the will would be null and void in one country when it was successfully probated in another.
- After the probate order is given, the will is taken to the Land Registry and the rights in the property are registered in the names of the heirs under the will. If the property is a bank account, the will is taken to the bank and the bank pays out the money to the heirs directly.
- There is no inheritance or estate tax in Israel. The registration of the rights in land to the heirs under the will has no tax attached to it.
- The process is a long one. Due to the fact that in some foreign countries there are estate taxes, wills are often worded in ways designed to avoid these taxes. This very often makes the interpretation of a foreign will difficult for those in Israel who have to disburse the money or register the rights, even if the foreign language of the will is understood by them. This lack of understanding often causes delays in the implementation of a will.
Despite the difficulties, this is a process that must be followed if the heirs under the will are to be allowed to take possession of the property and do with it as they want.