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Inheritance by Legal Ruling

Anat Levi

Anat Levi

Inheritance by Legal Ruling

Legal inheritance is the way to divide the estate in the absence of a will

An inheritance by legal ruling (hereby: “the estate”) is an inheritance that is divided according to the established provisions in the Inheritance Law, 1965 (hereby: “the law”) amongst the various relatives of the testator (hereby: “the heirs”).

Section 2 of the law of inheritance states that the provisions of the law as concerns the division of the estate shall apply only when no valid will from the person whose property is to be divided is present (hereby: “the testator”):

“The inheritance is granted by legal ruling to the extent that it is in accordance with the will.”

It may be the case that a portion of the provisions of the will may apply to the estate for which it was written, and the provisions of the law will apply to another portion of the estate which does not have a will connected to it.

Who are the Legal Heirs?

Section 10 of the law decrees who are the various heirs of the testator:

  • The current spouse of the testator during the time he died
  • The children of the testator and their descendants (grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.)
  • The parents of the testator and their descendants (brothers, nieces and nephews, etc.)
  • The parents of the testator’s parents and their descendants (aunts and uncles, cousins, etc.)

Inheritance Rights of Adopted Children

When a person is adopted (hereby: “the adoptee”) legally (according to the Adoption of Children Law in Israel or through an official procedure outside of Israel), the following rules shall apply in the case of the adopting parent (hereby: “the adopter”):

  • The adoptee will be considered as a child of the adopter, he and his descendants are heirs to the adopter.
  • The adoptee and his descendants are heirs to the relatives of the adopter.
  • The adopter is considered as a parent of the adoptee and he is his heir.
  • The relatives of the adopter are heirs of the adoptee.

In addition to this, the adoptee also has inheritance rights within his biological family (in the absence of a will):

  • The adoptee and his descendants are heirs to the biological family members.
  • The biological family members are not heirs to the adoptee and his descendants.

Circles of Proximity of the Heirs (Not Including Spouses)

Now we will discuss the heirs’ proximity circles and the principles according to which the division of the estate will be executed in the event that the testator does not have a spouse. Later in the article we will discuss how it will be divided when the testator does have a spouse.

  • First circle — the children of the testator and their descendants.
  • Second circle — the parents of the testator and their descendants.
  • Third circle — the parents of the testator’s parents and their descendants.

First Principle

When dividing the estate, the first circle will have priority over the second, and the second over the third

Example: The estate includes 100,000 NIS; the testator leaves behind a child and a parent. The child will receive the entire sum and the parent will not receive anything.

Second Principle

In every circle the person has priority over his descendants

Example: The estate includes 100,000 NIS; the testator leaves behind a child and a grandchild. The child will inherit the full sum and the grandchild will not receive anything.

Third Principle

Equality

The division will be executed with equality (since there is no will). Equality is manifested on several levels:

  • Division will be equal within each circle with no differentiation between the sexes

Example: The estate includes 100,000 NIS; the testator leaves behind a son and a daughter. Each one will receive 50,000 NIS.

  • The division will be equal amongst the children who were born in wedlock and those who were not born in wedlock

Fourth Principle

Principle of representation

When an heir passes away before the testator, the children of the heir will step into his shoes by virtue of the “principle of representation”

Example: Moshe (testator) has only one son named David (heir), and the sum of the estate is 100,000 NIS. David passed away before Moshe, and David has two sons (Shimon and Levi). Shimon and Levi will inherit the full sum of the estate and each one will receive 50,000 NIS.

The Spouse of the Testator in the Legal Inheritance

The spouse of the testator has exceeding rights in the inheritance, and we will discuss the spouse’s portion in the estate later in this article. First, we must know who is considered as a spouse of the testator before discussing their rights. A spouse is a person who fulfills one of the following conditions:

  • A person who is married to the testator at the time of his death, and this means every form of marriage, including civil marriage
  • Common-law marriage: A man and a woman living life together as a family in a shared household but are not married to each other, and one of them dies, and at the time of one of their deaths neither of them are married to any one else” (Section 55 of the law)
    • Man and woman
    • Living as a family
    • Not married to each other
    • At the time of the testator’s death neither one of them is married to anyone else

To date, Section 55 only permits a man and a woman to enter into this framework. This section does not apply to same-sex couples.

Distribution of the Inheritance by Law when the Testator has a Spouse

At the beginning of the article we explained how the estate is divided when the testator does not have a spouse, and now we will explain how it will be divided amongst the different circles when the testator does have a spouse. The division will be executed as follows:

  • Personal belongings

The spouse will take all the personal belongings (including the vehicle), according to what is commonly accepted (objective test) and according to the circumstances (subjective test), they belong to the joint household.

The following rules shall apply to the rest of the property:

  • The testator left behind children or their descendants (grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.)

Spouse — inherits 50% of the estate and the remainder is divided according to the rules of proximity circles

  • The testator leaves behind parents

Spouse — inherits 50% of the estate and the remainder is divided according to the rules of proximity circles

  • The testator leaves behind siblings and their descendants (nieces and nephews, etc.)

Spouse — inherits 66% of the estate and the remainder is divided according to the rules of proximity circles

  • The testator leaves behind parents of parents (grandparents)

Spouse — inherits 66% of the estate and the remainder is divided according to the rules of proximity circles

  • The testator does not leave behind any of the heirs mentioned above

Spouse — inherits 100% of the estate

When the testator leaves behind siblings, or their descendants, or grandparents, the spouse will additionally inherit the couple’s place of residence (assuming there is one) when the following two conditions are present:

  • The couple was married for at least three years
  • The couple lived in the residence at the time the testator passed

The Spouse’s Rights Resulting from the Marital Bond

The spouse’s rights by virtue of the marital bond (such as: marriage contract) will be deducted from the portion the spouse is entitled to from the estate. The following rights will not be deducted from the spouse’s portion of the estate, although they result from the marital bond:

  • What the testator received from the spouse for the marriage to be returned at the expiration of the marriage

The Rights of a Disqualified Heir and an Heir Who Renounced Claims

For an heir who is disqualified from the inheritance (intentionally caused or tried to cause the death of the testator), or an heir who renounced his portion of the estate (not for the benefit of the spouse / sibling / or child of the testator), their rights will be distributed amongst the various heirs according to the rules of the proximity circles.

The Right of the State to Inherit When There are no Heirs

When the testator has no heirs at all according to the rules of the proximity circles, the State will inherit his estate. The State will use the property of the estate in the following areas: education, science, health, and welfare.

Interested in Preparing a Will? Issuing a Request for an Inheritance Order or a Probate Order? The Law Offices of Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh are at Your Service

In the Israeli law offices of Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh you will encounter lawyers who specialize in Inheritance, Estate and family law and who are certified as mediators. Our lawyers will assist you in drawing up a will that reflects your full wishes and will accompany you through the different procedures until it is submitted. Also, our lawyers will help you request receipt of an inheritance or probate order, along with the procedures they entail.

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