The World of Wills



Wills and estate planning are the most important area of planning you can do for yourself and your family.


However in Ethiopia many people do not prepare wills, because its benefits have been overlooked whether for reasons of illiteracy (financial/actual) or cultural concerns. Law advocates in the country are hoping this will change in the near future by developing the awareness, importance, and necessity of this legal document.


The Law Commission of England and Wales estimated in its consultation on will reform (based on figures from 2018), that 40 percent of people die without having prepared a will.

In Japan writing wills is less common in general, because, under Japanese law, there is less property for an heir to distribute. Anywhere from one third to one half of any estate is set aside and divided along strict mathematical guidelines based on the relationship to the deceased. In addition, there is no probate in Japan, the property passes immediately to the heirs up the person’s death; the estate tax is paid by the individual heirs and not the estate, and is based on where the heir lives.


Many wonder if artificial intelligence (AI) could be the answer to increasing the number of people who make wills. In Australia for instance there is a chatbot called Ailira, an artificially intelligent legal assistant that can assist with legal issues such as business structuring and wills and estate planning. AI can be used to search for and provide many factual answers, however, for subjective issues, such as the declining of the testator’s mental capacity and any potential undue influence in the preparation of a will, these would be, most likely, beyond the capabilities of a machine to assess.


In the United States, over 55 percent of American adults do not have a will or other estate plan in place, according to caring.com’s 2019 survey. Most people will continue to put off the process as long as they can, and are more inclined to start thinking about when they hit their 70’s.


In Israel, many people do not have wills or any estate planning in place. One of the reasons may be because they think that in absence of a will, the default will be that the spouse receives the entire estate or that the estate is divided equally between the spouse and the surviving children of the couple. However, this is not the case and in absence of a will the Succession Law 5725-1965, (hereinafter: “the Law”), determines the successors.


Here are just a few examples:

  • If the deceased was married and had children, grandchildren or parents (hereinafter "first degree heirs"), the surviving spouse is entitled to receive the tangible personal property, the family car, and half of the estate. The remaining balance is distributed among the first degree heirs.

  • If the deceased was only survived by siblings or their heirs, or by grandparents (hereinafter "second degree heirs") the surviving spouse is entitled to 2/3 of the estate. But, if the surviving spouse and the deceased were married for at least three years prior to the death, and they lived together in a property which is an asset of the estate, the surviving spouse is entitled to all of the rights of the deceased in that property and 2/3 of the remainder of the estate.

  • If the deceased was survived by his spouse alone, he/she inherits the full estate.

  • In the absence of any living relatives, the State of Israel inherits the estate.

A few important things one should know when drafting a will in Israel:

  1. A testator can make a bequest in a will also to children who are born within 300 days after the date of his/her death.

  2. Any person that the testator intends to bequeath in his will cannot be present or take any active role, at the time of its preparation.

  3. If the testator is elderly or sick, it is worthwhile attaching a medical expert opinion that determines that the testator is fit to make the will, in order to avoid potential claims that might invalidate the will such as lack of legal capacity.

  4. Note that money in a life insurance policy and pension plans will pass on to the people designated in those policies/plans with or without a will.

  5. Guardianship for minor children or incapacitated individuals- If a parent provides in a Will for the appointment of a specific guardian, the Administrator General and the Family Court will generally respect that provision.

Conclusion:

Writing a will is a world of its own, since it is tailor made to the testator’s specific requests, therefore, it is important to take the time and prepare one for the sake of your family. Clear and unambiguous instructions are essential in order to avoid an outbreak of an inheritance war by your loved ones who have been left behind. Although Israeli law enables you to prepare a will on your own (otherwise known as a handwritten will), it is advisable to seek legal counsel to ensure it is done properly.


The above is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and is not a substitute for legal consultation. Specific legal advice should be sought in accordance with the particular circumstances.

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