Estate Attorney Helping Clients Prepare for the Future
With the challenges of day-to-day life, it can feel daunting to look too far into the future. While people may place money into a savings or retirement account to prepare for emergencies or when they no longer need to work, many put off estate planning because they believe it will only be necessary when they are “older.” Unfortunately, accidents, injuries, and health emergencies can occur at any stage of life. Once you are incapacitated, it is too late to take legal action, and important decisions regarding your person and estate may be left up to the courts.
It is vital to have a plan in place to ensure your family’s well-being and financial stability should the unimaginable happen. With knowledge of both US and Israeli law, Hait Family Law can simplify the estate planning process and help you create and maintain a robust plan throughout all your life’s stages.
What is Estate Planning and Why is it Important?
Estate planning is a broad topic. It covers the creation of plans for handling your finances, property, and healthcare in the event that you become incapacitated or pass away and can no longer make these critical decisions. Many people think estate planning is only necessary for people of advanced age or those with large estates. However, the reality is that everyone can benefit from the creation of a robust estate plan. In fact, estate plans may be most valuable for families of modest means because they are the ones who are in danger of suffering the greatest financial harm due to the unexpected loss of a providing loved one.
An estate planning lawyer in Jerusalem can help you build a solid plan that meets your unique needs and goals. Topics that the documents in your estate plan may address include:
- Creating a will to guide the distribution of your assets following your death.
- Naming a trusted executor for your estate to ensure the terms of your will are followed.
- Setting up trusts or utilizing other financial planning tools to protect your loved ones’ inheritance from excessive taxes or delays due to probate.
- Ensuring the succession of your businesses in the event of your incapacitation or death.
- Naming a guardian for your minor children or loved ones with special needs if you are unable to care for them.
- Making certain a common-law spouse is recognized and eligible to inherit from your estate.
- Defining your wishes for your health care if you can no longer voice your opinion.
- Designating beneficiaries for retirement funds and life insurance policies.
Why is Having a Valid Will So Critical?
You have spent your lifetime working hard to become financially stable, support your family, and build a legacy that will outlast you. Without a will, the fruits of your labors may not be distributed as you had envisioned, and your family could face unnecessary stress, delays, and legal costs. If a person dies in Israel without a will, also known as dying intestate, their estate will be divided according to the terms of the Succession Law of 1965. The provisions of this law are complex and generally lead to results that are different than what the decedent would have personally chosen.
A valid will allows you to simplify the inheritance process for your family and ensure that your legacy is passed on to the people and organizations that matter most to you. You can feel a sense of security because you know that your loved ones will be cared for, and there should be no bitter disagreements or court battles that could cause painful rifts in your family following your passing.
What Types of Wills are Accepted in Israel?
A will defines the distribution of your property, from homes and bank accounts to intellectual property and pension plans. It also names an executor who has the authority to oversee the execution of the will and must ensure that it is filed with the court in accordance with all applicable laws. While people tend to be most familiar with written wills, there are actually four types of wills that may be considered valid under Israeli law:
- Holographic will: This variety of will is entirely handwritten by the testator (the person making the will) and must be accompanied by their signature and dated on every page.
- Oral will: An individual may choose to go before an authority, such as a judge, and speak the terms of their will to have it officially recorded by the court.
- Attorney-drafted will: If you wish to make a typed will, it is recommended that you seek the legal assistance of a trusted law office to ensure that it meets the strict standards for this type of document. Otherwise, it may be disputed or declared invalid. Typed wills must be signed and dated by two witnesses.
- Deathbed will: A different kind of oral will; a deathbed will is used in emergency circumstances when a person is about to die. They may speak the terms of their will in front of two witnesses. However, this type is more frequently contested than others, particularly if questions about the testator’s mental capacity exist.
Is a Will Created in Another Country Legally Valid in Israel?
Many Jewish individuals make aliyah following retirement or move to Israel after a marriage. A common question our office receives is whether or not wills drafted in other countries are valid in Israel. Although international wills generally retain their legality in Israel, they may not function as intended if they do not include current assets, family members, and business interests.
Other estate planning documents, such as living wills or powers of attorney, may not be enforceable under Israeli law. We strongly advise all clients to update their will and review their estate plan following their immigration to ensure their documents are current, valid, and cover the entirety of their estate.
How Can an Estate Plan Protect You While You Are Still Living?
Estate plans allow you to set up the distribution of your assets following your death, but they can also safeguard your well-being and finances during your lifetime. You can use estate planning documents to ensure your wishes for healthcare services are known if you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated due to illness or injury. Additionally, you can ensure that a trusted individual controls your financial and business interests if you can no longer handle them yourself. However, it is crucial to create these documents with the assistance of a skilled lawyer to ensure they are enforceable in the event they are necessary. Estate planning tools that may be useful during your lifetime include:
Continuing Power of Attorney (POA)
A continuing or durable power of attorney (POA) grants a trusted individual or individuals the authority to make financial, medical, and living arrangement decisions on your behalf if you cannot make them yourself. To make these critical decisions easier for the POA, you can also use this document to describe the types of care, medical treatment, and other actions you do and do not want to be taken for yourself. You may also choose to appoint an inspector who can oversee the POA’s decisions and ensure the terms of the document are followed.
Decision Support Advocate
As we reach our golden years, we may become more forgetful or struggle with cognitive decline. Although it is possible to have a guardian appointed to make decisions for a person having difficulties handling their affairs, this is a drastic step that takes away the individual’s autonomy. Therefore, the courts prefer to avoid this action whenever possible.
One way to make this stage of your life easier for your loved ones is to designate a decision support advocate to help you understand and make important choices. Unlike a POA, the advocate cannot make unilateral decisions on your behalf. Instead, they will assist you with the decision-making process. An advocate can help bridge the gap if you are not considered incapacitated but could still use assistance with your affairs from time to time.
When Should You Update Your Estate Plan?
Due to your ever-changing financial and life situations, estate plans must be reviewed and updated frequently to reflect your current needs. An out-of-date estate plan can result in beloved family members not receiving an inheritance or other undesired outcomes. An experienced estate attorney should remain in close contact with you over the years to keep your plan current so you can protect your family from contentious and expensive litigation in the wake of your passing. It is strongly advised to review your estate plan after any of the following life events:
- Having or adopting a child
- A marriage or divorce
- Purchasing an asset, such as real estate or a business
- Taking a new job, particularly if it has benefits such as a retirement plan or life insurance policy
- Making aliyah or moving away from your family members who may have acted as caregivers
What are the Benefits of Consulting a Knowledgeable Estate Planning Lawyer?
Navigating the complexities of Israeli law, ensuring your estate planning documents meet legal standards, and preparing for all the potential changes in your life that could impact your plan is no easy task. While a quick internet browser search may lead you to a website where you can purchase or download a generic will template, you should be aware that this method is not likely to meet your specific needs and could leave you and your family unprotected at your most vulnerable time.
You deserve the detailed attention of a law firm that takes the time to know and understand your goals. Attorney Jay Hait has years of experience helping clients create customized estate plans that protect their legacy and provide peace of mind and comfort. Whether you are just starting the journey of your adult life or are ready to savor your retirement years, we can craft a plan that perfectly suits your situation. Contact Hait Family Law today to schedule a complimentary consultation: (077) 200 8161.