According to Israeli law, when there is no will, the legal heirs are: the spouse (who has a special status as will be explained hereinafter), and then relatives in 3 "branches" (parantelas):
The second branch will be applied only if there are no heirs in the first branch, and the third branch will be applied only if there are no heirs in the first and second branches.
1. The deceased's estate is divided between the deceased's spouse (married or common-law spouse) and the heirs according to the said branches, who share between themselves equally.
The spouse receives the movable property (personal belongings) including the car, and in addition receives from the estate:
a). Half (1/2) in case the testator had left children, or children's descendants or parents. The latter receive the other half.
b). Two thirds (2/3) in case the testator did not leave any children, children's children or parents, but had left brothers/sisters or their descendants or grandparents. The latter receive the other third which is shared equally between themselves. However, if the remaining spouse was married to the deceased for at least 3 years before the death, and had lived with the deceased in a residential apartment/property which is part of the estate, then the spouse shall receive the apartment entirely, and 2/3 of the remaining assets.
c). In case the deceased did not leave any of the said relatives, the spouse shall inherit the entire estate.
d). If the deceased did not have a spouse, his children (or other heirs according to the three branches) will share equally the estate.
2. The deceased's children have a priority over the deceased's parents, and the deceased's parents have a priority over the deceased's grandparents.
3. The deceased's children share equally between themselves, (and also the deceased's parents and grandparents). An adopted child is considered as a biologic child.
4. If a deceased's child had passed away before the deceased, the child's children will inherit the child's share, and in the same way children of any of the deceased's heirs will inherit this heir's share if this heir had passed away before the deceased. However, in order to prevent a potential conflict between the spouse and various heirs, the Israeli legislator has stipulated that these provisions will not apply when the deceased had left a spouse as well as parents or grandparents, or one of them (i.e. one parent, one grandparent…).
5. When there are no heirs as specified above, the estate goes to the Public Trustee for a period of a few years in case heirs will appear and claim their share. After such period, and if no heir has made any claim, the estate becomes the property of the State of Israel, who must use the estate for purposes of education, science, health and welfare.
6. Common Law: According to Article 55 of the Law of Succession, in the absence of a will, inheritance rights of known or common-law spouse of the deceased, are equal to that of a married couple, but only if the common law couple, are not married to others, and only if the surviving spouse and the deceased lived together in a joint household.
According to the Israeli Succession law there are no forced rules, and the testator is entitled to specify in a will any orders concerning what will be done with his assets after his death.
A will may be made in writing, in the presence of witnesses, in front of an official authority, or orally:
1. In the presence of witnesses – the will must be in writing and signed in the presence of 2 witnesses. The testator must declare that this is his will, and the witnesses must confirm in writing that such a declaration was made and that the testator signed his will in their presence.
2. Before of an official authority – the testator may orally specify his will before a judge, an official registrar, or a religious court. The testator may also submit personally a written will to one of the above mentioned bodies. The will must be read out loud by the judge/registrar and the testator must declare that this is his will.
3. An oral will – a dangerously ill person, or anyone who considers himself, under justified circumstances, as facing death, can specify the terms of his will orally, in the presence of 2 witnesses. The latter should write the terms of the will and hand it to the registrar. An oral will becomes void 1 month after the circumstances justifying its drafting have passed and the testator is still alive.
4. In writing – the will must be fully written by the testator, must specify the date in which it was made, and must be signed by the testator. This kind of will may give rise to future questions as to the validity of the same, subject to the circumstances. Therefore such a will is not recommended.
A will in writing, in the presence of witnesses, or before an official authority, may be submitted to the relevant court for safe and record keeping.
If the basic components of a will appear in it, and the court has no doubt that it reflects the testator's true and free will, the court may, in a reasoned decision, issue a probate order, even if there is a defect in the form or in the procedure regarding the will (i.e., lack of signature of the testator or the witnesses, lack of date, wrong date, lack of presence of 2 witnesses etc.).
A minor and an incapacitated person cannot make a will and cannot be witnesses to a will.
There is no inheritance/gift tax in Israel. However heirs who live outside Israel are subject to tax rules of their own country (as much as such tax rules are in force).
2 more important notes:
This information was compiled by Jonathan Kahn & Co Law Offices and Notary.