Different inheritance laws in different countries can lead to serious loss of money and property, when wills are not correctly prepared or when people are ignorant of their relevant legal rights. The ideal solution is to consult a local lawyer on any issue related to property and inheritance laws, and particularly those laws pertaining to wills; however, people often neglect to do so, erroneously thinking that a will is a will, so what's the difference? This grave mistake could cost you and your family property as well as a lot of money.
Guaranteeing foreign citizens' inheritance rights
One of the most charged issues in law is inheritance law. This matter brings together strong emotions and different considerations, which are very hard to ascertain and determine – especially when dealing with the last wills and estates of people with significant property and possessions in both countries. The strange thing is that people with highly valuable property know that they should manage it with the advice of lawyers, and make sure to receive consultation and legal representation on every step of the way, but still believe that when dealing with last wills and inheritances, only one law is applicable throughout the world. This is not the case. It turns out that cultural differences also lead to different approaches on this matter, and ignorance of the law does not exempt a person from his responsibility to prepare his will pursuant to the law. But how can you guarantee your rights in inheritance in Israel? First of all – by consulting lawyers who can explain the situation correctly, so that you can take steps to clarify your status as heir, even if this task is unpleasant. This will also prepare you for any future legal battle you may have to wage over the inheritance you believe to be legally yours. Secondly, you can prepare your own will more wisely, for the sake of the next generation, or even better – legally register your property and assets pursuant to the law you choose to work under. This is something you should not take for granted, and you should not neglect to clarify your legal situation, since you lose a lot of money, or face unnecessary litigation, only to discover that you have lost your inheritance.
Israeli inheritance law
How can you guarantee your rights in inheritance in Israel? Israeli law provides citizens with much freedom in naming their heirs in their will. However, you should know that some laws give the state the right to inherit the property of a person without family, and therefore you should definitely make sure that in such a case you have a will or an orderly record of family members who are your heirs. Of course, if Israeli citizens have relatives they do not wish to bequeath their property to, it is best to explicitly state this, since under Israeli law, family members become automatic heirs in case there is no will. This means that you cannot avoid this situation unless you leave a last will and testament. French law, for example, also determines automatic inheritance to spouses and children where a person tries to exclude them from his inheritance, and this cannot be changed at all. Preparing a will has its own rules, too. In Israel, you may not inform your heirs, prior to signing the will, of what was bequeathed to them, and they may not be present at the signing of the will, to prevent undue influence over the testator, for example. In such cases the will may be invalid. Another issue is how to guarantee your rights in inheritance in Israel – you should receive a lawyer's advice on how to register the property you wish to bequeath, in such a way that only your desired heirs will receive it. For example, you may register such property in your heir's name as a gift, stipulating that it may never be transferred to his or her spouse. Only a lawyer will be able to advise you on how to do this correctly, so as to guarantee that only your desired heir will receive this inheritance.
The latest changes in French inheritance law
French inheritance law was recently changed, in August 2015, pursuant to new European legislation. In the past, in case of a foreign resident with an estate in Israel, the Registrar of Probate would demand to know the last in the testator's place of residence or citizenship, with respect to the property in Israel. In case of dual citizens – holding both Israeli and French citizenship – it was necessary to note that until August 2015 the law differentiated between land and chattels, so that in case of land assets in Israel, the law at the country of such assets – i.e. Israel – governed such property. With other possessions, including bank accounts, securities etc., French law determined that the law of the testator's last place of residence would be the applicable law.
Now, however, all this has changed; however, the testator is still given the right to determine in his or her will the law governing his or her estate – whether Israeli or French. If the testator failed to determine this issue, the governing law will be that of the testator's last place of residence. This means that for a dual citizen residing in Israel – the Israeli law shall apply; while for a French resident – the French law shall apply, and in case of an Israeli resident in France – the governing law would be the Israeli law. How can you guarantee your rights in inheritance in Israel? By securing a legal or notary-approved document stating the law governing the estate upon death, without differentiating between land properties and chattels. Someone provided with legal advice and who understands that French law differs on the matter of children's and spouses' inheritance, will find it easier to determine in his or her last will and testament what law shall govern his or her estate.