Rita’s husband quickly realized that he had reached the end of his life. On his deathbed in the hospital, he asked her to bring him a piece of paper and a pen so that he could write a will. However, three months after mourning, Rita and her three children wished to realize the will but were met with a severe legal refusal: The will does not meet the legal conditions that define it as valid and it was declared defective.
Fortunately for the family of the deceased, since the law sees them as legitimate and natural heirs to the father’s property and fortune, they were able receive all his property but suffered disorders regarding the internal distribution of money, assets and property, which eventually led to a very serious family conflict.
What should a handwritten Will include?
According to the inheritance law, there are several ways to write a will. However, when a person writes it by himself in his home without the help of a probate lawyer, it is called a “handwritten will”. This is a kind of will that suits those who wish to leave it confidential and not inform anyone else about it, those who cannot or unable to turn to a lawyer or a notary and those who wish to draw up a will very urgently. The most important rule in the will is that it must be written only by the hand of the testator.
This is a basic condition for the validity and implementation of the will. People with illegible handwriting, for example, must carefully consider whether to draw up such a will, because if it cannot be interpreted unequivocally, it may not be possible to realize.
Also, a handwritten will must never be printed and it must contain the date and a signature on each of its pages. There may be verdicts that gave effect to undated wills, but the inheritance law concludes that the later will is always considered more important than the earlier one.
This means that if there is more than one will, in the absence of the date, it is impossible to know which one is the latest that must be given attention. The testator must sign by hand on every page and near any change, addition, correction and deletion. Without the signature, the changes made in the document may not count as part of the will.
Warning, missing details in a will
This is the story of a father of ten children who had bequeathed, according to his handwritten will, all his property to the eldest son, so that he would distribute it fairly among the other brothers. But the son took all the property for himself, got sued by his brothers – and he won! This is because the father did not formulate his will in a commanding form as it should be in any will. He had to write “I order you to divide the property equally among all your brothers”. Since it was written in a form of a request and not of a command, the eldest son could keep all the property.
The annulment of a will also exists in situations where the deceased explains that he does not bequeath anything, but does not specify who he wants to bequeath his assets to. So happened in the case of a father who committed suicide and left behind a letter with the title “Will”. In this letter he detailed all the actions of his wife and children and accused them of causing him to end his life. So he chose not to leave any of them with anything. However, in his will he did not specify who he wished to bequeath his money and assets to, and therefore his will was determined as invalid in court.
As a result, his wife and children were naturally and legally entitled to the father’s money and property against his will. In another case, a lonely elderly woman drew up a will in which she wished to bequeath her property to a good random soldier. The court annulled the document because it has no identification of an heir. Despite this, her request, in this case, could be realized by defining it as a grant according to the law of loyalty.
The details of the heirs must be specified in detail: full name, identity number, date of birth, address, the connection between the testator and his heirs, and additional details through which the heir can be identified. One of these contacts can be mentioned, and it can be made clear that he will not get anything from the testator, but it is not enough to merely mention the name of the person who is not going to inherit anything. In addition, the assets included in the will should be clearly detailed: the address of the property and the block number, full details of the bank account, and it is also possible to add a section that relates to future assets that can be accumulated even after signing the will or those that have been forgotten (“side section”).
The will document cannot contain provident funds, pensions, life insurance policies and various funds. Therefore, it is recommended to receive a form of appointment of beneficiaries from the appropriate insurance company and specify who will receive the money after the death. A service that can help in this matter is the “Har Ha-Bituach” service.
Is it possible to attach conditions and certificates to handwritten wills?
M., who received his mother’s will, was amazed to discover that as a condition for receiving the inheritance, he must divorce his wife or at least sign a prenuptial agreement with her that would prevent her from receiving a part of the inheritance. The court ruled that M. could not be forced to divorce and therefore his mother’s property was transferred to him unconditionally. Another case dealt with the condition that S. gave his heirs living in Europe to immigrate permanently to Israel, or that they would not receive anything.
The court ruled in this case that the heirs will not be able to sell the inherited assets but will be able to materialize them despite the will of the deceased. In general, a will must not include conditions in order to receive the inheritance – it is an immoral act that goes against public policies. A will can include an obligation to have a child, for example, acquire education, etc., but any illegal or immoral condition, such as breaking up with another person or requesting the execution of any kind of offense, will be invalidated.
It is possible to attach a medical certificate, attesting to the clarity of the testator, to the will. In a certain case, a deceased mother inherited her apartment to her husband and daughter, while her two sons received nothing and they resented against it. In order not to create a family dispute, the family of the deceased applied for the cancellation of the will because of the mother’s lack of clarity during the preparation of the document.
Since it was impossible to prove otherwise, she was recognized as incompetent and her will was cancelled. It is recommended for the medical certificate, which proves the clarity of the testator, to be as close as possible to the will’s signing date and to keep both documents together. A certificate must be issued from a doctor who knows the testator and examined him in advance. If the testator is elderly, it is preferable for the certificate to be psycho-geriatric.
A handwritten will does not require witnesses and a lawyer – it is a simple and easy way to draw up a will independently and without costs. However, since this will was drawn up without witnesses, there may be someone who will try to undermine it in the future. A handwritten will must be written entirely by the hand of the testator, it must not be printed by any means, and it must include details of the whole inheritance or a relative part thereof (“portion”), with the full details of the heirs.
It is possible to include an instruction of an appointment of an estate manager in the will, who will be responsible for dividing the inheritance among all the heirs and provide his name. This is not mandatory and the appointment sometimes requires additional expenses such as payment of fees to the estate manager, so it is recommended to appoint one only when there is a real need for it.
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.