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When spouses wish to ensure the continuation of their quality of life, property and fortune after the death of one of them, they may draw up a joint mutual will, in which they commit to bequeath to each other their common property or the things agreed upon between them, without the ability to violate the terms of this will later on. This somewhat reminds of the prenuptial agreements, which are also signed as mutual documents and require the agreement of both sides and the willingness to give the spouse something, out of consideration of the near and distant future.
Adv. Daniel Yanovsky
Important conditions for a mutual will
The inheritance law allows every person in the State of Israel to determine what will happen to his fortune and property after he/she has passed away. This person may change his will at any time, edit it, delete it and add changes and eventually only the final version and only that alone will be the valid one. However, in a situation where a mutual will is drawn up, one of two conditions takes effect: the spouses sign the same will, or the spouses make two identical wills in the same form and at the same time. In both cases, this is a binding agreement that prevents the spouses from making any change in the form or canceling the will or fulfilling any other will instead. However, changes or cancellations may be done, given that both spouses are alive: anyone interested in a change, has to inform the other spouse in writing (even if prior explicit verbal consent has been given) and specify his/her request for a renewed will in the document. As soon as one of the spouses dies, heaven forbid, there is no right to cancel the mutual will.
It is important to remember that this is a will that is derived from a joint decision of the spouses and a desire to create certain rules and arrangements which were established between them. In a situation where each spouse holds an independent will without any arrangement with the other spouse, this counts as an ordinary and standard will for all intents and purposes.
Since mutual wills are made for the will of two people and not one, the law protects the couple’s interest and limits the ability to change the will even in the event of a certain change in the relationship or when various disagreements arise. This is proof of the existence of a close and successful relationship between the spouses here and forever, but it is important to carefully consider the step before acting. D. experienced this herself, when she and her husband drew up a future will, according to which all their property after their death will be divided equally between their two children and to her husband’s daughter from his previous marriage. However, over the years, there has been a dispute between D. and her husband’s daughter, and as a result she asked not to include her in her will. She did not manage to do so before her husband’s death, and as a result, she had to realize that the daughter would inherit what she had been promised in any case and without any restrictions. These restrictions also include other situations in which the mutual will cannot be edited or canceled, such as rape, threats, pressure and influence, fraud, dishonesty or inability to deliver a will.
2005 – Amendment year
In 2005 an amendment was made to the law relating to mutual wills, and therefore it is necessary to examine whether the will was drawn up before or after this year. If there is a mutual will, signed after 2005 and one of the spouses has already passed away – the law distinguishes between a situation in which the inheritance has been divided between the heirs and a situation in which the inheritance has not yet been divided.
In the event that the inheritance has not yet been divided and the living spouse wishes to cancel the mutual will – he must fully dispose of the things that he himself inherited by the will.
In the case where the inheritance has been divided – the living spouse can return everything that he has already inherited into the general inheritance.
The wills that were signed after 2005 were more restricted in terms of the maneuver that the law allows, and this comes out of the desire to protect the will of the testators as determined in their lives and according to the specific wording they chose in drawing up the document.
No agreement on the contents of the joint will
It is true that some see a mutual will, as well as signing a prenuptial agreement, as a kind of romantic commitment that proves the strength of shared life. On the practical level, it is also a long-term view of situations that the spouses will eventually have to deal with and don’t want to leave anything to chance. But what happens when the spouses do not agree on certain conditions in the will?
In general, each spouse can draw up a personal will of his/her own, as he/she sees fit and based on his/her free will. But when both spouses are willing to compromise and agree on certain points in drawing up the will, the lawyer, with whom it is signed, can serve as a mediator between the sides. With the professionalism and the vast experience with thousands of couples, the probate lawyer’s office of Miskevich will be able to conduct a discussion with the couple, in which, solutions will be offered for each dispute through a pleasant conversation, in view of the common goal. In addition, even if a mutual will has been drawn up and now one of the spouses wishes to draw up a personal will of his own anyway, he will notify the spouse in writing. As a result, the mutual will is immediately removed and will no longer be considered valid. But if the other spouse does not draw up a new will, his inheritance will be divided according to the law after his death, and possibly in a manner that is against his will. It is also necessary to ensure that the notification of the spouse, regarding the desire to cancel the joint will, is in a proper cognitive state.
Heir after an heir
Many children of parents, who have a mutual will, expect to inherit their parents’ property, assets and money. The spouses, who wish to ensure the continuation for their spouse during their life, will surely want to ensure that their joint inheritance eventually passes to a third party – children or any family members. Therefore, it is customary to include instructions regarding future heirs along with their names and details, in the mutual will. This inheritance will take place only after the death of both spouses and may guarantee, to some extent, the living of many people over the next decades. The lawyer, in front of whom the will is drawn up, will advise you to examine every situation from which you can achieve optimal security and use for the surviving spouse, that will pass on to the third parties as well.
Drawing up a mutual will is an idea that benefits spouses who aspire to be prepared for the unfortunate circumstances of life and sweeten them as much as possible without forcing the surviving spouse to deal with confusing and complicated situations, such as trying to manipulate the course of his/her changing life along with the attempt to decide what is going to happen to his/her property and his/her fortune after he/she passes away. One of the disturbing thoughts in the minds of couples who try a joint contract is the perception of old age as a time when current objectivity or clarity can get out of control and may confuse the widower or widow and make them helpless, as other people may manipulate, cheat, or pressure them. This will gives protection against any situation in which elderly people may fall into a trap because of deception, and often prevents family disputes over future inheritance, because things are already known in advance. Couples, who wish to draw up a mutual will, can contact our office at any time and ensure proper accompaniment, mediation of disagreements and the continuation of a calm and pleasant life.
You are invited to contact our office with any question or legal need regarding wills, inheritance and estates, and you can also arrange a meeting with an expert probate lawyer.
*The above article is by no means a legal advice; any use of this information is solely under the reader’s responsibility.
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