Over the years, many of us think about preparing a will. This maybe due to a tangible situation, or just in case, to prevent possible complications or needless disagreements between family members. Writing a will is not at all complicated; however, there are a few things you should know.
The legal definition states that a will is a legal document in which a person instructs what should be done with his property after his death. In some cases the will is changed over the years, due to various causes such as family conflicts, death of a family member, etc. The will that is legally binding is the last one, written closest to the person’s death. This will should state that it invalidates all previous versions. It is important to note that when there is no will, the Inheritance Law states that the property of the deceased will be divided between the legal heirs – the spouse and children.
The law specifies four possible ways for drawing up a will:
1. A handwritten will – a will written in the handwriting of the person himself, which does not require the presence of a lawyer or witnesses. Theoretically, any person can do this at no cost. However, in order to prevent future complications, you must be careful about a number of points: the will must be personally handwritten (not typed) by the person giving the instructions; it must include the date on which it was written, also in the handwriting of the person; and it must have the person’s signature. Writing this type of will is recommended mainly for someone who is knowledgeable about the law, and it is therefore relatively common among law professionals.
2. A will with witnesses – a will which is drawn up in the presence of two people, chosen by the person to act as witnesses to his will. A spouse or any other beneficiary of the will cannot serve as a witness. Therefore, most of these wills are drawn up in the presence of lawyers, who can also assist in the wording, to prevent future problems, and are considered reliable witnesses. The person must state in front of the witnesses that this is his will, and then sign it. Afterwards, the witnesses must sign that they have heard his declaration. This type of will can be typed on the computer.
3. A will in front of an authority – a will submitted to someone in an official position: a judge, member of a religious court (beit din), court registrar or notary; or a will drawn up through one of these individuals. This will can be stated orally, with the person specifying the details of his will to the official, or it may be submitted in writing. In this case there is no need for the person to sign the will; however, the service involves a fee of several hundred shekels.
4. Nuncupative will – a will which is stated orally by the person in front of two witnesses, without needing to draw it up as a written document. This option is available only to a person who is on his deathbed, or one who sees himself, under justifying circumstances, as facing immediate death (such as a soldier in battle or a person in the middle of a natural disaster etc.). Even in this situation there must be two witnesses who can quickly write down the will and sign it, but this time, the witnesses can also be beneficiaries of the will.
In principle, any person is allowed to draw up a will; however, the law specifies a number of exceptions – people who, if they were to draw up a will, it would not be considered valid. These exceptions are based on the criterion of lack of cognitive or psychological ability to draw up a will. These include youth under the age of 18, legally incompetent individuals – suffering from mental illnesses or intellectual disabilities preventing them from taking care of their own affairs, as well as people whose judgement is impaired due to an illness or injury, rendering them unable to discern the quality of the will.
A person is allowed to revoke his own will as he wishes, at any time and for any reason, and draw up another one in its place, or even not prepare a will at all. The will can be revoked in the same way it is drawn up – a written annulment, in front of witnesses or in front of an authority. In addition, the will can be destroyed (by burning or shredding) or a new will can be written, stating the date and adding that the new will cancels the previous one.
Writing a will does not have to be a complicated affair. Even so, it is important to do it right, so that we can be certain that our wishes will be fulfilled as we would want them to be, and to prevent unnecessary disputes in the future.
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