Why is it important to leave a Will?
By: Amira Solow, Adv.
Despite our natural inclination to repress or postpone the subject of death, life’s lesson has proven to us that ignoring the topic does not keep it away or prevent it from occurring. We become more aware of this subject, especially at times of heightened security, war, illness or when there is a feeling of lack of control.
It is better to prepare and sign a will and hope to put it away until the ripe old age of 120, than to find yourself unprepared when God forbid it is too late.
What in fact is a will?
The Israeli Inheritance law determines how a person’s inheritance is divided after his death when that person did not leave a will i.e. intestate. A will is a legal way for a person to decide what shall be done with his or her assets after his or her death. The essence of a will is the Testator’s right to decide to whom he truly wants to leave his assets, and in what manner it should be distributed. It is imperative that this is done by leaving a clear and specific will, drafted by a professional in order to ensure that it abides by Israeli Inheritance Law. It is important to know that this decision can be revised at any given time while the testator is alive by signing a new will which makes any previous one null and void.
There are many case studies regarding the various problems arising in different situations where the deceased hadn’t left a will and the different potential heirs ended up in dispute over the inheritance resulting in severe family feuds. Situations such as these would have been easily avoided if that person had left a proper will.
6 Important guidelines to consider when preparing a will:
Real Estate property – According to the Israeli Inheritance law, when someone passes away leaving a spouse and children, his estate is divided between them in such a way that the spouse gets 50% and the children receive 50%. Situations such as these can cause problems when the children become owners of the family home and demand the living parent to sell the house or prevent him from doing so. You can specify in a will that your spouse will inherit your assets and that the children shall inherit only once the other parent passes away as well. There are obviously many varied ways of dividing the assets, depending on each family’s composition, the importance is being clear and preventing potential problems in the future.
Specific bequeath or sentimental property- When the estate includes items which cannot be divided up equally or have sentimental value such as jewelry, family heirlooms, artifacts and collections, it is recommended to determine which heir gets what item. If you want the will to be equal, you can compensate the various heirs with the monetary value of a specific item another heir received.
Speak to your heirs about your intension to leave a will- This depends on the situation, but an open dialogue prior to one’s death, explaining the reasoning and the intention of the testator’s wishes, can avoid misunderstanding and disputes in the future.
Verify the Testator’s physical and mental health on the day of the signing of the will- When the testator is elderly or sick, by obtaining a doctor’s certificate. This will avoid future contesting of the will by relatives claiming the will not valid due to the testator’s poor physical or mental state
Guardianship over children who are minors- When the testator has children who are minors, he can decide who he would like to appoint as legal guardians for those children in the event that both parents are deceased.
Defining the scope of the Estate- In order to prevent a situation in which one heir “smuggles” property of the testator from the estate, one should detail the assets included in the estate as well as their location, such as a specific bank account or safe or various real estate properties the heirs may not know about.
Halachik wills- For those concerned with Halacha, it is possible to draft a will in a Halachically acceptable format.
It is crucial to keep in mind that the will is the testator’s final word which can no longer be reversed and therefore he should be sensitive in regard to considering the family’s feelings and avoid unnecessary grief and aggravation.
In conclusion, it is highly advisable for a person to prepare and sign a well drafted will and deposit a signed copy of it with the Registrar of Inheritance or with the Attorney who prepared the will (to easily locate it after death) in order to avoid family feuds at such a sensitive time when the family should come together in mutual support.
Amira Solow is a bilingual attorney with more than 12 years of experience specializing in real estate and inheritance law in Israel. After graduating from the Law Faculty of Bar Ilan University, Amira worked in the field of real estate and inheritance law an d recently opened up her own firm- Solow Law offices.
For additional information contact Amira at email@example.com or 050-7435193