Choosing between hell and a notary public – a matter of life and death outside Israel with assets in Israel

Choosing between hell and a notary public – a matter of life and death outside Israel with assets in Israel

July 22, 2022

A person lives in England or any other country during his whole life and passes away in such country without any connection to Israel - family, social or otherwise. However, once, about 20 years ago, he bought an apartment in Israel or opened a bank account in Israel because he inherited some funds, or because he thought of studying at a university in Israel. What would happen to such assets? Will his successors be able to receive such? Maybe, but without a will drafted under Israeli law, it will probably be necessary to go through seven circles of hell before the assets are received ...

Israeli Inheritance Law stipulates that an Israeli Court is empowered to decide on the inheritance of a person whose place of residence at the time of demise was Israel, or had assets in Israel - even if such assets are ‘only’ a bank account. In addition, the law stipulates that in order for the Registrar of Inheritance or the Court to decides on a will, the will need be legally valid under Israeli law. This provision demands a lengthy procedure aimed at rendering a non-Israeli will into a 'kind of Israeli will'. In doing so, the successors need furnish the Registrar of Inheritance a pack of documents, including, inter alia, the original will, as well as an expert opinion as to the law of the place of residence of the deceased at the time of demise. In the vast majority of cases, the Registrar, who is not authorized to decide on the law applicable to the will, will transfer the case to the Court, which will call the expert to testify. This procedure may take between several months and several years and that is only if there are no objections to the motion or doubt as to the validity of the will or whether the testator had legal capacity to write the will or any disputes between the successors...

However, if the foreign resident who left assets in Israel chooses to make a notarized will under Israeli law, all this headache can be easily avoided. Of the four types of wills under Israeli law, a notarized will offers two significant advantages over the others: The fact that the notarial certificate constitutes sufficient evidence in a legal proceeding, without the requirement for further evidence, for the validity of will thus creating greater certainty that the will be probated in the future. Further, the fact that the notary keeps a numbered copy of all wills made by him eliminates the possibility of forging the will after it was written and signed, or contradicting it.

The greatest importance of a notarial will is when there is a concern that someone may try to contend against the validity of the will on the grounds that the testator was incompetent when drafted the will and in the case of a will made outside Israel and under a non-Israeli law, the whole procedure in Israel may take many years and costs may considerably surmount the estate. Because the procedure of a notarized will includes verification by the notary of the testator’s ability to perform and understand the procedure, it will be very difficult in the future to attack a notarized will due to a contention of lack of competence. In addition, the notarial will may be accompanied by a certificate of competence prepared by a doctor, which will be kept by the notary together with the will. Procedurally, an Israeli notary can have a testator sign the will in his country of residence, when the testator receives the original will, and a copy of the will is kept by the notary in Israel, in a manner that is an additional line of defense if future contentions against the will are raised. To this we will add the fact that a notary who is experienced in international wills and is accustomed to fly to different countries to have people also has the expertise to draft a will in the manner required to prevent future disputes.

And the cost? There is no doubt that flying a notary specifically to sign a will in Europe, for example, is not cheap, but it will always be cheaper than the cost of the seven circles of hell that the successors will have to go through in the future.