Distribution of Estate after the death of a spouse
What is a distribution of estate or property in the case of death of a spouse?
How can an estate be divided between the heirs in the event of the death of a spouse? This article by the Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh, Law Firm in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, lists some of the more common options for distribution of an estate in this case.
Distribution of Estate as stipulated by law
Under current legislation, in the event of the death of a spouse, an apartment that was purchased by the spouses during their life together is considered joint property. In this case, half of the rights in the property is part of the estate of the deceased. The heirs of the deceased will also be entitled to part of the apartment, proportionally to their share in the deceased person’s property.
Division of property according to a Financial Agreement:
The situation changes when the couple had signed a financial agreement. In such case, the division of property is according to the agreement. However, the law stipulates that such an agreement is valid only when it is certified by the competent authorities – for example, a court. An uncertified contract is not legally binding.
Case story – using an individual AGREEMENT in the distribution of property
In a case which was handled by an inheritance lawyer in our firm, the client, a widow, had an individual agreement, signed by her late husband. The agreement was signed during the period before the purchase of an apartment, from which it could be inferred that the deceased had refused to take any part in the rights of the apartment. The deceased had children from his first marriage, who demanded to receive their share of the apartment, as entitled to them based on the deceased’s inheritance.
Naturally, the heirs argued that the individual agreement, which implies that the deceased would not have a claim regarding the apartment, has no legal validity. This is because, in their view, the agreement should be seen as a marriage contract, which requires court certification to be valid. Since the agreement was not certified by the competent authorities, the heirs argued that the agreement should be ignored and the apartment considered as part of the estate of the deceased, and therefore, also partially the property of the heirs.
The decision of the court, based on precedents
The heirs did not take into account that under the law, there is still a chance to recognize an individual agreement between the spouses regarding a particular property, even without the certification of the competent authorities. This differs from the marriage contract, which applies to all the property of the spouses, and therefore needs, as stated, official certification, before it enters into force.
Adv. Alex Brosh presented to the court a legal precedent according to which individual agreements between the spouses that were not certified by the court were considered valid. The court ruled in favor of our client, protecting a widow from an illegal attempt to seize her property.