Jerusalem Family Court defines Israeli “legal heirs”

A recent case before the Jerusalem Family Court demonstrates the importance of carefully drafting provisions in your Israeli Will, which fall under Section 41, of the Israeli Law of Succession. Section 41 allows a Testator to name heirs, who will inherit in place of an heir, who predeceases him.

In this case, Probate File 10953 – 08-13, the Testator executed an Israeli will on September 11, 2000. He was unmarried and did not have any children. He named seven beneficiaries, including two brothers. He also specified that if any of his beneficiaries predecease him, the “legal heirs” of that beneficiary will come in place of them.

The Testator passed away on October 17, 2012, while one of his named beneficiaries; a brother, predeceased him by a few months. The brother was survived by four children (the Respondents in the case), who are the legal heirs under Israel’s intestate laws of succession. However that brother had written a will in 2004, disinheriting two of his children (Respondents 3 and 4) and leaving his estate to Respondents 1 and 2.

The question before the court was whether the four children of the original heir, who are the Israeli “legal heirs,” by law, would come in place of their father, or whether only the two children, named by the father, in his own will, should be deemed the “legal heirs.”

The Court ruled that it is the Testator’s will that the court is upholding and not the will of the brother, who happened to predecease the beneficiary. Therefore it is the Testator’s intentions and desires that the Court must honor, and the brother’s decision to disinherit two of his children is not relevant in deciding this case. The standard definition of “legal heirs” are the lawful heirs under the Israeli intestate succession laws. This means that all four legal heirs of the original heir, under Israeli law, will inherit according to the Testator’s original will from the year 2000.

In the Family Court of Jerusalem – Before Judge Orit Ben David Leibel: Handed down on June 22, 2014. The names of the parties are not published.