Inheritance by law

In the event the deceased left no will, the law specifies of a complex system of rules as to the possible inheritors and the manner according to which his estate will be distributed among his different inheritors.


Spouse’s rights in lawful inheritance

One of the difficult situations that a person experiences after the death of his/her spouse is the realization that he has to share his and spouse’s personal property with other inheritors. Even though the law grants “partial advantage” to spouses according to a very complex set of rules, it is preferable to secure the rights of your spouse in the estate by making an orderly will.

It is important to understand that a person’s right to take part in his spouse’s property, deriving from Israeli family laws, is not prejudiced by virtue of the Inheritance Law however is applied in conjunction with this law.

For example, half of assets such as an apartment or money registered only to the testator’s name, however accumulated during marriage, belong to the living spouse (even though they are registered in the testator’s name only) by virtue of the presumed partnership between spouses or by virtue of the Spouses (Property Relations) Law.

The meaning is that if, for example, spouses have common property then the deceased spouse is owner of half of the property, and can devise this part only. The second half of the property belongs to the living spouse, and will not be distributed among inheritors.

When the testator is your spouse, it is recommended to contact an advocate who specializes, alongside inheritance laws, in family laws since he will be able to assist you to keep your share in the common property, distinguish it from the estate of the deceased spouse, and prevent a situation wherein your share of the property will be mistakenly distributed among the other inheritors.


Spouse’s rights in chattel

In principle, the spouse may take from the estate all chattels belonging, as customary and according to circumstances, to the joint household. The term “chattel” includes the spouse’s car, household furniture, kitchenware and any other personal equipment used by the spouse.



Spouse’s rights in other assets

For the purpose of the remaining estate left by the spouse, such as real estate, shares and so on, division of the estate among inheritors changes subject to the type of inheritors the testator left in addition to the spouse:

a)      In the event the testator left children, grandchildren, great grandchildren or parents, the spouse will inherit half of the remaining estate.

b)      If the testator left brothers or nephews or grandparents, the spouse will inherit two thirds of the remaining estate and all of the testator’s share in the residential apartment, on the condition that the spouse was married to the testator at least 3 years and cohabited with the testator in the apartment specified in the estate and on the condition that the testator has no children.

Common-law spouse’s rights

The Israeli Inheritance Law states that spouses cohabiting in a joint household however are not married to each other, and that at the time of the death of any thereof neither was married to another, the living spouse will inherit the dead spouse as if they were married to each other.


The rights of relatives other than the testator’s spouse

After the spouse’s share in the estate is transferred to him/her, the remaining inheritors shall divide the remaining estate by law, when the rule is that the testator’s children inherit the testator and in the event the testator has no children – his parents will inherit him, and in the event there are no parents – his grandparents.

In the event the testator has no relatives who are parents, brothers, grandparents, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and nephews – the spouse shall solely inherit the entire estate.


Who is disqualified as an inheritor?

Whoever was convicted of causing deliberately the testator’s death or attempted to cause his death or whoever was convicted of concealing or destroying the testator’s last will, or forged it or made a claim according to a forged will – will be disqualified and will not be able to be an inheritor.

However, a person who was convicted of attempting to cause the testator’s death and the testator forgave this act, in writing or by making a will in his favor, becomes eligible to inherit the testator again.

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