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French Foreign Legal Opinion

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A French resident passes away, and their estate contains property in Israel. What will happen to their property? How can the beneficiaries receive it and what actions must they take? In order to prove their right to the inheritance, the beneficiaries must provide a French foreign legal opinion, drafted by an expert in French law.

Our attorneys help obtain foreign legal opinions. The article explains when a French foreign expert legal opinion is required by an Israeli court regarding the inheritance of a foreign resident of France who left property in Israel, and who is considered a foreign law expert capable of drafting such an opinion.

French Foreign Legal Opinion

When is a French Foreign Legal Opinion for an Inheritance is required?

Section 136 of the Israeli Succession Law, 5725-1965 states that the courts in Israel are authorized to rule on the inheritance of a person whose place of residence was in Israel at the time of death, or who left behind property in Israel. Property can be real estate, moveable assets, bank accounts, pension funds, securities etc. Section 137 provides that the inheritance shall be subject to the law of the testator’s place of residence at the time of death, except for what is provided in sections 138 through 140, which deal with the law on certain assets, fitness to make a will and the form of a will.

Following this provisions, in a situation such as the deceased’s place of residence was not Israel but France, but they had assets in Israel, the Family Court must obtain a French foreign legal opinion regarding the law that applies to these assets.

According to Section 67A (7) of the Succession Law, a demand to issue an inheritance or will probate order, made by the deceased’s heirs to the Inheritance Registry, will be transferred to the Family Court which will consider the claim as well as the foreign legal opinion.

Therefore, the heirs of a deceased person resident in France who left a property estate in Israel, want to actualize the will, they must submit, in addition to a demand to probate the will, a French expert legal opinion regarding foreign law in France.

Naturally, if assets left behind by a French resident are located in France, the heirs should file a petition for probate or succession in France. Nonetheless, this probate order is not automatically recognized in Israel and the inheritors of any assets remaining within Israel will need to obtain a foreign legal opinion attached to the petition.

However, in the event that the deceased did not leave behind an apartment but a provident fund or a life insurance policy with specific beneficiaries, there is, in most cases, no need for a foreign legal opinion.

What is a foreign legal opinion?

A foreign legal opinion is an opinion of a foreign expert relating to the law that applies to the deceased’s inheritance in their main place of residence at the time of their death, for which a petition was submitted to the Family Court or the Inheritance Registry.

If the deceased is a foreign resident, an expert foreign legal opinion is required to enable the court to determine the foreign law regarding the question of the division of the deceased’s estate. An attorney’s office which deals with establishing foreign legal opinions will assist with this issue.

An expert opinion, except for matter connected to medicine, must be submitted to the court no later than the date of submission by the claimant of the declarations of the main witnesses (unless the court determines otherwise).

 Who is considered a foreign law expert?

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

The main court ruling on this matter in the civil case 6796/97 Berg Jacob and Sons (furniture) V. Berg East Imports Inc., in which the Supreme Court highlighted the difficulty to determine precisely who may be considered an expert in foreign law. Nonetheless, the civil case (Tel Aviv) 2301-03-16 Matthias Kohari v. Rinat Bernier stated that a foreign law expert could be:

  1. A lawyer or judge who deals with law through practice, academia, or otherwise has the relevant qualifications to serve as a witness with expertise in the relevant foreign law. Alternately:
  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. Or
  3. Someone else who due to their profession or business, had the opportunity to acquire knowledge of the law in question.

The importance of an expert foreign legal opinion

The intervention of an expert foreign legal opinion is usually required, based on the rules of international civil law, and to make sure that the laws of the foreign citizen’s country of residence are not violated in applying Israeli law.

Foreign Legal Opinions in other areas

Besides legal opinion for a probation of a will or an inheritance order, there are other situations where the court requires an opinion such as, for instance, a case involving a real estate deal in which a foreign corporation is a party to the agreement. Moreover, it also concerns cases of nullifying a marriage, when there is no divorce agreement and the couple involved are not Jews. Enforcement of foreign rulings requires an opinions on the foreign law as well.

Contact us to help you preparing a foreign law opinion

 If you are in a situation where you need to prepare a foreign law opinion, you should contact our law firm which has knowledge and expertise in this issue. Our attorneys can prepare an expert foreign legal opinion for you on every issue requiring an expert foreign legal opinion.

If you are heirs of a foreign resident who left assets in Israel, and you need foreign legal opinion for France or any other foreign law, contact our office and we will be glad to assist you!

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