When to write a will, what to write in it, how to protest the withdrawal of inheritance, should a property manager be appointed?
Benny Don Yehia, one of Israel's top lawyers, answers
Attorney Benny Don Yehia is an expert in family and inheritance law. He is considered the leading lawyer in Israel and has dealt with these issues for decades.
Attorney Don Yehia has written 13 books, delivered numerous lectures on various platforms, and participates in media discussions about wills, inheritance, estate management and family law – financial agreements, divorce, custody disputes, property disputes and more. He also puts on a humor show about relationships and another show about Jewish humor.
I wanted to hear from him everything there is to know about wills and inheritance disputes
– If people have little property, should they write a will?
– Usually not. Even young people in most cases do not need a will, because they do not yet have property.
– How is property divided when a person dies without a will?
– Half goes to his wife, and the other half is divided equally between his children.
– If a person has children from several wives or children born without marriage – are they all inherited equally ?
– Yes. There is no difference between a child born out of wedlock and a child born out of wedlock to parents. And there is no preference for children from first marriage to other children. All children inherit equally by law when there is no will.
– How about writing a will to protect the surviving spouse?
– This is a common and recommended reason: to write a will in which all property must be bequeathed to the spouse, with additional instruction that everything, what a person bequeaths, after the death of the other spouse, it will be transferred to the children.
Many couples write such a will so that the surviving parent does not have unpleasant relationships with children, and sometimes for difficult conflicts: it happens that children, if there is no will, seek to receive the part that they inherited from the deceased parent. More than once the surviving parent is forced to sell his apartment in order to give his share to the children.
– When else is it worth writing a will?
– When a parent gave money to one of the children during his lifetime. Parents often provide material support to some children: they pay for their studies, help them buy an apartment or a car, and so on. In a will, family property can be balanced enough to avoid further disputes.
– How to write a will?
– You usually go to a lawyer, who does it. He knows what to advise and what to write. The will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses.
You can write a will by hand, and this is legal if a simple rule is observed – the one who wrote the will indicates the date of writing and signs it. Such a will does not require witnesses. Its disadvantage: sometimes, after death, the heirs do not find a will.
A will can be deposited with the Department of Inheritance and Wills, which is an organ of the Ministry of Justice, and then after death the will is opened.
The advantage of a handwritten will is to save on attorney fees, but a regular will doesn't cost a lot: usually 2,000 to 4,000 shekels.
– Would you recommend writing will in the second marriage?
– For confidence. This is almost always necessary. And not only in the second marriage, but also when the couple lives together without marriage. In this case, they receive the status of “ civil marriage '', which means that they are married for the purpose of inheritance: the surviving spouse inherits half of the property, even what was accumulated before the acquaintance between the parties. This is provided that at the time of death, none of them was married to another spouse.
In the case of a second marriage, the drawing up of a will is also necessary to “ appease '' children from their first marriage so that they are not afraid that the spouse of their mother or father will “ bite off '' an inheritance that they expect to receive over time. .
– Who is the will transferred to after signing it?
– It is customary to transfer copies of the will to future heirs. If you do not want the heirs to know about the will, it is recommended to hand it over to relatives or friends who will know how to take it out of the box when the day comes to pass it on to the heirs for immediate execution. Anyone who fears that no one will find out that he left a will, hands it to the office of the Office of Inheritance and Wills.
– How to change a will?
– Amendment or revocation of a will is carried out by writing a new will, which itself cancels any previous will. Another way to revoke the will: destroy it or write about it: it is not valid.
– Should there be an executor in the will?
– If there is a lot of complex property, and there are fears that there will be a struggle between the heirs, it is advisable to ask in the will to appoint a certain person who will take care of the property and assets, who will take care of the property and assets, and act to divide them between the heirs. But the court has the discretionary power not to appoint this person as the estate manager, and the judge can appoint another person at his own discretion. Usually this person is a lawyer.
– What do you suggest to people involved in the divorce proceedings?
– Write your will immediately. Most often, disputes arise over property, and if there is no will and one of the spouses dies, his wife inherits, as I said, half of the property. Therefore, it is recommended that you take care of a will that only children or other people will inherit.
– What does a spouse or child who thinks they have been deprived of inheritance or cheated during distribution in a will?
– He can apply for the revocation of the will. The most common argument in these attempts is the unfair influence of the one who acquired the property of the deceased parent. The person opening the will claim claims that a particular heir, usually one of the children, took advantage of the physical and mental disorder of the parents to force him to write a discriminatory will.
Another common statement when trying to invalidate a will is the claim that the parent was in such a physical and mental state that he “ did not understand '' what he was signing. The judge will then have to find out with the help of experts what the cognitive state of the deceased was at the time of signing. The grounds for revoking a will is specified in the Succession Act.
– What should children or spouse avoid when asked to find a lawyer to draw up a will?
– Do not get too involved in the process of writing a will. This is due to the fact that the Law on Inheritance provides that a will can be declared invalid, in whole or in part, if the heir, according to the will, “ took part in its drawing up. '' It is therefore recommended that a child to whom a father or mother has bequeathed all or most of the estate in a will should not accompany the parent to an appointment with the lawyer making the will. Of course, the heir is not allowed to be in the room while the parent signs the will.
-I know there are people who videotape the signing of the will. Is this necessary?
– The law does not require this, but if we are talking about an elderly testator who is not completely healthy, and there are fears that one of the “ natural '' heirs (spouse or children) will try to annul the will – it is advisable to photograph or record the person who wrote the will.
This will show that the lawyer has read the testament to the testator, explained to him the content, the testator confirms that he understands what is written in the will, and, of course, he signs it voluntarily and thus confirms that he is confident and knows what he wants.
– What else do people write in wills?
“It’s important for them to add points that are a kind of“ spiritual will. ” They express the desire that their children understandably decide who to inherit, if the inheritance is unequal, they are encouraged to treat the surviving parent with respect. Some people want their children not to leave Israel, to keep the commandments and much more. Some heirs ask children to recite prayers for a year after their death. These instructions do not usually bind children.
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– Are there provisions in the will that the court can invalidate?
– Yes. In one case, a man bequeathed his property to his son on the condition that the son divorces his wife, from whom his father suffered. The judge disqualified this condition. In the will, the father bequeathed the property to his daughter on the condition that she immigrates to Israel and lives here. This condition was recognized by the court as legal.
Another case when the will was canceled: the requirement that the heirs not leave Israel, be faithful to God, lit candles every Saturday night, wore kippahs, observed Shabbat, and ate only kosher were not ashamed of their parents. and post their photos in the guest rooms of their apartments.
The judges have repeatedly ruled that the will of the person whose conditions were not included will not be executed, and therefore the property of the deceased will be divided among the heirs by law.
– Is there inheritance tax?
– No. It was in the past. From time to time, someone offers to return inheritance tax. Some are afraid of this and therefore, during their lifetime, they transfer property to the name of their children.
– What is the difference between the provisions of the marriage contract between spouses and a will?
– It is not possible to bequeath property to a spouse in a financial agreement. Inheritance by law only when it is written in the will. A financial agreement may include certain agreements that will be binding after the death of a spouse, for example, the right to continue to live in the deceased's apartment, or various arrangements regarding child support after death.
– Talking about marriage agreement, doesn't that sometimes cause quarrels between the parties even before they got married?
– Yes, it happens and even often. I do not recommend signing a marriage contract for young couples who have not yet accumulated property. But there are people who insist on a financial agreement that will be agreed in such a way that if the parties go their separate ways, everyone will have their own savings, including those with whom they were married. Not the most recommended option. This is usually required by a man who thinks that it is better not to tie the knot at all.
– Doesn't such an agreement discriminate against a woman in case of divorce?
– Definitely. The idea of the Matrimonial Property Law is that everything obtained in a joint marriage is equal for both parties, even if it is registered in the name of only one of them. Legislators rightly believed that many women accumulated less property because they invested in raising children and running a household. This contribution to the family is no less important than the husband's income, professional achievements and promotion in work or business.
– You are involved in a lot of divorce and quarrels between spouses. What are the most frequent disputes about?
– On the division of property. Sometimes the parties spend years in various proceedings before the court or rabbinical court. In recent years, quarrels have increased over the custody of children and the time spent with them. This is due to the fact that the 'new father' strives to be more involved in the upbringing of children.
– But isn't men's demand for full or joint custody sometimes the result of a desire not to pay child support?
– Definitely. Or not pay at all, or the alimony is too low. The judges must determine when the fight is real and when it is financial. And there are also mothers who object to the father seeing the children often because they want more alimony.
– What do you expect in this area in the coming years?
– Unfortunately, there are more and more divorces. This is “ to blame '' long life expectancy. Multiple divorces make it easier for people to decide to break up the family unit. The growing permissiveness and ease with which one can meet other spouses through various networks is also accelerating divorce.
I think that in the near future half of the couples who get married these days will divorce. But let's be optimistic and therefore let's say: half of the couples will remain married …
– Do you have any special story about the will?
– The former minister walked into my office, said that his mother had passed away, and asked me to take care of the partition of her inheritance equally between him and his brother. It was a property worth millions. I told the minister that I understand that his mother didn’t leave a will.
“She left,” he replied.
“So what about a will?” I asked, and the minister said that after the death of his mother, he went through the boxes in his mother's apartment and found her will. “I read this,” he told me awkwardly, “and then I tore it up.”
I told him, “You were a minister and a member of the Knesset, and I don’t need to tell you what the law provides. that whoever breaks the will is sentenced to three years in prison. ”
“ But my mother’s property should be divided equally between me and my brother! ” He almost screamed.
I understood what was written in the will, but was intrigued and asked him what exactly his mother ordered.
“My mother left me eighty percent of the property, and my brother only twenty,” he surprised me … “But everything should be divided equally, because it’s right.”
“For that,” I told him, “you didn’t have to break the law. You could approve a will and tell your brother, despite the will, he must take half. ”
And he answered me:“ But then my brother will know that our mother gave me more than he did. And what, I deserve to be in jail? Three years, the law … ''
'Let's not disturb the law,' I replied, 'you don't deserve to be jailed. You deserve an award. ”
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