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What to Do If the Owner of Property in Israel Has Died Abroad
Article 136 of Israel’s Inheritance Law states that only Israeli authorities may discuss the inheritance of a person whose residence was Israel on the day of his death or who placed assets in Israel. In other words, the Israeli court has jurisdiction to discuss all of the deceased’s assets if his last place of residence was in Israel or if he left property in Israel.
Therefore, a succession order, the document that allows you to obtain property by law, given abroad is considered invalid in the Israeli legal system. Even if a succession or probate order, which is necessary in order to realize a will, was issued, it won’t allow for the realization or bequest of assets by heirs in Israel. That means that in order to validate or realize a will in such a situation, you’ll have to apply for a probate order in accordance with Israeli law.
Article 39 of Israeli Inheritance Law stipulates a special provision according to which claims of rights under a will are not acceptable unless a probate order was granted under Israeli law. This provision actually negates the use and enforcement of foreign judgments regarding a probate given in a foreign country. That means that even if your relative willed you inheritance in your home country, you will not be able to claim it without an Israeli probate order.
For the purpose of inheritance law, Israeli procedure doesn’t distinguish where the will was given or the last place of domicile, or a country that a person treats as home, of the testator. The only way to implement and enforce a will that was not given in Israel is by executing the procedure under Article 39 – applying for a succession or probate order as if the will were signed and given in Israel. In these cases, the registrar of inheritance usually directs the request to family court.
Lex fori, or the laws of the country in which legal action is brought – in this case, Israel – applies on procedural matters, like the application for probate or succession order. This means that the laws of the country in which the deceased may have resided at his or her time of death do not apply.
However, regarding significant issues that arise in connection with the realization of the will, the probate or succession order applicant may prove that foreign law is applicable to the will by bringing in expert testimony. If he or she fails to prove this, the court may dismiss the application or simply apply Israeli law.
How to Know If the Division of a Testator’s Property Will Be Implemented in Accordance With Israeli Law or the Law of the Foreign Country Where He or She Died
According to Article 137 of Israeli Inheritance Law, the succession of the deceased’s will must be distributed according to the law of the place of residence at the time of his or her death. Even if he left behind assets in Israel, if his last place of residence was not in Israel, the division of property will be carried out according to foreign law.
Heirs of the deceased, whether in Israel or abroad, who are interested in taking over the estate, are required to produce a legal opinion regarding the distribution of the deceased’s property in accordance with the foreign law. The opinion should satisfy the rules of international law in order to ensure compliance of the wishes of the deceased and the rights of the legal heirs.
In order to ensure that the review is as up-to-date and relevant as possible, an “expert” is defined as a professional lawyer or jurist who engages on a daily basis in the field in which his professional opinion is requested.
The expert’s opinion must be submitted to the court along with documents proving his knowledge of foreign law in general and the issue under discussion in particular.
Deceased Who Was Not a Resident of Israel
As part of the request for a succession order of a deceased person who was not a resident of Israel, the following documents must be added in addition to the documents specified in the previous section:
- Land registration indicating the presence of real estate under the deceased’s name, proof of the deceased’s bank account information, or any other property owned by the deceased in the area where the application is submitted – in this case, Israel
- All foreign documents must bear an Israeli consul stamp in the country where issued or an “apostille” stamp, an official stamp imprinted on the document.
- Notarized translation of every document written in a foreign language to Hebrew (excluding English and Arabic)
- Professional opinion on the foreign law prepared by a jurist specializing in foreign law.
- Formal order
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