The Probate of a Foreign Will In Israel

Why is it necessary to probate a foreign will in Israel? 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.

This is very important to foreigners who own real estate in Israel or who have inherited real estate in Israel.

If the deceased left a will then the property will go to those heirs mentioned in the will. In the case of 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:

  1. The original will (with original signatures) needs to be submitted to the Israeli Probate Court.
  2. If you do not have the original copy of the will then a petition requesting that the court agree to accept a copy of the will needs to be submitted.
  3. For this petition an explanation needs to be put forth explaining why you do not have the original copy of the will.
  4. 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, 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.
  5. The Registrar of Inheritances then sends the file to the Family Court in the city or district in which the Registrars office is located.
  6. A copy of the file is sent to the the State Guardian’s office at the district Attorney’s office for approval. If the will is a simple one then the State Guardian’s office at the District Attorney’s office 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.
  7. Very often the State’s Guardian of the Judge requests a notarized translation of the will into Hebrew. Depending on the length of the will this can be expensive. There is a policy decision applying to all government offices not to accept documents in another language other than Hebrew (or (Arabic). This means that the will, any addendums, codicils, trust documents, power of attorneys, affidavits will have to be translated to Hebrew and the translations will need to be notarized.
  8. Very often the State’s Guardian will ask for the other heirs to show that they agree to the probate of the will.
  9. A notice is placed in a daily newspaper and with 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 State’s Guardian has no objections, then the probate order will be given.
  10. 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.
  11. 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 estate includes a bank account account, the will is taken to the bank and the bank pays out the money to the heirs directly in accordance with the provisions of the will.
  12. 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.
  13. The process is a long one. Due to the fact that in some foreign countries there are estate tax or inheritance tax, 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.
  14. In Israel everyone has an I.D. card with a permanent I.D. number. In Israeli wills the names of the heirs and their I.D. numbers appear in the will. In foreign wills this is not the case. Therefor a series of affidavits need to be prepared that show who the heirs are, what their identity numbers are (passport numbers, driver’s license numbers, social security numbers) so that the heirs can be identified in the land registry and the banks.

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.

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