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Foreign legal opinion — Panama

Michael Decker

Dongdiet & Nellie

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A foreign expert legal opinion for Panama is required by an Israeli court in a number of situations; for example, regarding the inheritance of a foreign resident of Panama who left property in Israel. In this article, attorneys from our office answer the questions of what is a foreign legal opinion, when does an opinion need to be submitted regarding the foreign law, who is an expert in foreign law, etc.

A foreign legal opinion for an inheritance

Section 136 of The Israeli Inheritance Law – 1965 (hereafter: “the Inheritance Law”) states that an Israeli court is authorized to rule on the inheritance of any person who was living in Israel at the time of their death or left property in Israel. Property can be real estate, moveable assets, pension funds, bank accounts, securities, etc.

Section 137 states that the law of the country where the testator lived at the time of death is the law that is applied to the inheritance, except for what is stated in sections 138 through 140 (which deal with the law on certain assets, fitness to make a will, and the form of a will).Foreign legal opinion Panama

Accordingly, in cases when the deceased’s place of residence was not Israel but they held assets in Israel, the Family Court must obtain a foreign legal opinion regarding the law that applies to the deceased’s assets.

A request to issue an inheritance order or will probate order, submitted by the deceased’s inheritors to the Inheritance Registry, will be transferred to the Family Court according to Section 67A (7) of the Inheritance Law.

The court will consider the petition, along with the foreign legal opinion.

Thus it follows that if someone living in Panama passed away and left, for example, an apartment in Israel, inheritors who want to actualize the will must submit, in addition to a petition to probate the will, an expert legal opinion regarding foreign law in Panama.

What is a foreign legal opinion?

A foreign legal opinion is an opinion relating to the foreign law that applies to a given case, for which a petition was submitted to the Inheritance Registry or the Family Court.

The foreign law is the law of the country where the deceased was residing at the time of death. The accepted interpretation of “place of residence” is the deceased’s center of life, to which they have the most ties.

Section 135 of the Inheritance Law states that a person’s “residence” is the place in which their center of life is located. Regarding a minor, someone legally incompetent or someone for which a power of attorney has been appointed, the presumption is that their place of residence is that of their representative – according to its meaning in the Legal Fitness and Power of Attorney Law. This is as long as it has not been proven that his center of life is in fact somewhere else.

In the case where the deceased was a foreign resident, an expert foreign legal opinion is required, so that the court can determine the foreign law concerning the question of how the deceased’s estate should be divided. A lawyers’ office which deals with preparing foreign legal opinions will assist with this issue.

According to civil regulations, an expert opinion (for a matter not connected to medicine) is to be submitted to the court no later than the date on which the main witness declarations are to be submitted by the litigant submitting the legal opinion (unless the court determines otherwise).

What is the purpose of submitting a foreign legal opinion?

In the appeal (Tel Aviv) 1655/07 Ashkenazi Esther v. the Attorney General, the Tel Aviv District Court addresses the issue, and rules that the purpose of submitting a foreign legal opinion is to prove the content of the foreign law via an expert. An opinion to prove the foreign law is submitted like any other piece of evidence, since the content of a foreign law is a question of fact and not a question of law.

The court added that the purpose of submitting the opinion is restricted to proving the content of the foreign law. Submission of the opinion does not replace the court’s discretion in applying the foreign law, but rather provides the court with tools to help it reach a decision.

Who is an expert in the foreign law?

The foreign law must be proven by the opinion of an expert in the foreign law.

In civil case (Tel Aviv) 2301-03-16 Matthias Kohari v. Rinat Bernier, the Tel Aviv District Court repeated the position of the ruling, that it is difficult to exhaustively define who is to be considered a foreign law expert. The court noted that according to Prof. Shoah, the rule in English law and, accordingly, Israeli law as well, is that a foreign law expert can be:

  1. An attorney or judge who deals with or has dealt with practice in the framework of the legal system in question. Or
  2. A jurist who takes an official stand, which requires – and therefore also assumes – legal knowledge in the framework of the legal system in question (even if he did not deal with it in practice). Or
  3. Someone else, even if not a jurist, who due to their profession or business, had the opportunity to acquire knowledge of the law in question.

Foreign legal opinions in other areas

Beyond a legal opinion for an inheritance order or probation of a will, there are other cases where the court will require an opinion. For example: involving a real estate deal in which a foreign corporation is a party to the agreement (according to Section 10 of the Real Estate Regulations (Management and Registration) 2011). Likewise in cases of nullifying a marriage, when there is no divorce agreement between the couple involved, or when the case does not involve Jews. The Enforcement of Foreign Rulings Law also requires an opinion on the foreign law. There may also be additional cases in which the court will need an expert foreign law opinion.

Turning to an attorney – preparing a foreign law opinion

In any case in which you need to prepare a foreign law opinion, turn to a lawyers’ office which has knowledge and expertise in this issue.

Our attorneys specialize, among other things, in preparing expert foreign legal opinions. We can prepare an expert foreign legal opinion for you on issues of wills and inheritance, nullifying a marriage, and any other issue for which an expert foreign legal opinion is required.

If you are inheritors of a foreign resident who left assets in Israel, and you need a foreign legal opinion for Panama or any other foreign law, based on the deceased’s place of residence, contact our office and we will be happy to assist you immediately in an efficient and professional manner.

Foreign legal opinion Panama

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