Inheriting an Israeli apartment without a will

The Israeli Law of Inheritance, 1965, determines what will happen to a deceased person’s property, including the apartment in which they lived. If a person passed away and did not leave a will, their estate will be distributed in accordance with the Law of Inheritance. The law requires the known heirs to issue Inheritance Order from the Inheritance Registry at the Ministry of Justice or from the Family Court. The law also defines the rules, shares and priorities regarding the distribution of property to descendants and relatives.

When inheriting an apartment without a will, the legal heirs are first of all the spouse and children of the departed, and only after that more distant family members, according to the priority that will be explained later. If no legal heirs were found and the deceased did not leave a will that would determine how their property would be distributed, the state will dispose of the property, including the place of residence

It is important to know that this is not an unusual case. Many Israelis pass away without first considering what will happen to their property, including the home in which they lived with their partner and/or children. Drafting a will while you still have the capacity in order to protect the spouse and children, and ensure your assets are given to the heirs without conflict.
Inheriting an Israeli apartment without a will

What is the correct order of heirs?

Israeli law determines that the estate of the deceased person will be divided among heirs according to their family relationship: the spouse will receive half of the apartment while the remaining half will be divided among the departed person’s children. If a man dies and leaves behind a wife and three children, 50% of the estate will go to the spouse, while the remaining 50% will be divided equally between the children. If the children have offspring of their own (grandchildren etc to the departed) and have passed away, the grandchildren will be entitled to their parents share

In addition, the spouse will inherit any movable property and vehicles that belonged to the joint household in full, including furniture, electrical appliances, etc. This is required in order to maintain the standard of living that the spouse was used to before the departed passed away. This automatic inheritance by the spouse refers to objects that were used jointly by both spouses rather than personal items, for example jewelry.

Common law couples: According to Section 55 of the Inheritance Law, the status of a partner of the departed who lived with them in a committed relationship is the same as that of a married spouse.

What happens if the departed had no living spouse?

If there is no spouse, the Law of Inheritance defines three branches of inheritance in order of priority: the children of the departed and their descendants, the parents of the departed and the siblings and grandparents of the departed.

If there are any heirs in the first branch – offspring or descendants of offspring (grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.) the estate will be divided among them in full, even if the deceased has relatives from the second branch such as parents or siblings. The estate will be divided first among the children and only if they had predeceased the departed, among the grandchildren.

If one of the children is not alive but left behind descendants, they will be entitled to share their parents’ share equally.

If there are no heirs in the first branch – that is, a person who died and had no children – their estate will be distributed to the relatives in the second branch; their parents if still living, and their descendants (siblings of the departed).

As in the first branch, if one of the siblings died but left descendants, they will be entitled to equal shares of their part of the inheritance.

And if no such relatives exist, the estate will be distributed to the relatives in the third branch – grandparents and their descendants (uncles, cousins, etc.). Here too, the estate will be divided first of all between the grandparents and if they are not living, uncles and then cousins. If an uncle had predeceased the departed, their children will be entitled to equal shares of their part in the estate.

Only in cases where there are no legal heirs according to the listed branches, the inheritance law allows the state to confiscate the estate and its assets will be transferred to the Guardian General at the Ministry of Justice. However, section 17 of the law allows the state to grant part of the estate in a one-time manner to a relative who is not an heir according to law, but was close to the deceased at the time of their death.

What happens during a conflict between heirs?

Section 6(b) of the Law of Inheritance allows the decedent’s spouse or child or sibling to withdraw: “Whoever has withdrawn from their share of the estate is considered to the extent that they withdrawn as if they were not an heir in the first place; there is no withdrawal in favor of another person except if favor of the testator’s spouse, child or sibling “.

The children of the deceased can sign an affidavit of withdrawal from the estate in order to give their share in the apartment back to the spouse of the deceased, but the court cannot prevent the sale of the property if the heirs decide to sell it in order to divide the money among the heirs according to law.

For example, a family court in Haifa ruled in May 2015, forcing a daughter who took care of her parents until they passed away and lived in their house in accordance with their will, to sell the house and give their share of the inheritance to her siblings, after they filed a claim for the liquidation of the assets and the sale of the property.

The daughter invested in renovating the apartment and Judge Ella Mirez required the brothers to offset the renovation expenses from their share of the property after the sale, stating in her decision that “the plaintiff (the daughter) has the first right to purchase the apartment. The plaintiff will notify the parties within 30 days of the ruling if she intends to purchase the defendants’ rights in the apartment. .. In the event that the plaintiff announces that she is not interested in purchasing the defendants’ rights, the apartment will be sold on the free market as vacant, through a bidding process. The apartment will be advertised for sale by the parties’ counsel… the proceeds, minus expenses, will be divided between the parties according to their share of the rights in the apartment.

It is important to understand that there is a major difference between selling an inherited apartment and selling an apartment in a real estate transaction – the difference primarily regards taxation. While funds received as a result of the sale of an inherited property are not taxed, if the inheritance is sold after the distribution of the estate, taxes will apply to it like any other real estate transaction. Therefore, all balance payments must come from the inheritance itself and not from additional sources of funds outside the inheritance.

Disputes over an inherited apartment are very common. It is possible that some of the heirs will want to manage the property or continue to live there. In many cases it is possible to appoint an estate manager and divide the proceeds proportionally among the heirs. If there is no certification, you must contact the court with a request to dissolve the partnership.

How to appoint an estate executor?

This may be done with the consent of all the heirs and if not, with the consent of the family court. The role of the executor is to take care of the distribution of the estate and its management in a way that will protect all the heirs.

However, the spouse may demand, in addition to half of the estate, also the full rights to the residential apartment, in certain circumstances even receive alimony from the estate.

For example, a family court in Tel Aviv rejected in April 1998 a daughter’s claim to receive full rights to an apartment where her father and his wife from a second marriage lived after the father transferred all his rights to the apartment to his daughter before he died and without his wife’s knowledge (Family court case 72270/96). The two lived together for 29 years and the court determined that by her behavior the daughter consented to her father’s wife’s use of the apartment for 4 and a half years until he passed away.

In his decision, Judge Yehoshua Geifman wrote that “the circumstances of the case, in which the tacit consent of a land owner is apparent, prevent the plaintiff, by virtue of … the principle of good faith, from bringing this consent to an end.”

Inheriting an apartment after the death of one of the spouses is one of the classic situations for family disputes and requires accompaniment, mediation and legal advice. At the Decker, Pex, Levi office, you will meet lawyers specializing in inheritance, wills and mediation law with decades of experience in the field who will be happy to answer and question and help resolve any issues.