Executor of the estate
Section 78 of the Succession Law determines the court’s authority to appoint an administrator or executor for the estate (hereafter: "executor”).
Although it is not obliged by law, most foreign residents choose to apply for an appointment of executor in order to ensure that the estate is managed legally and efficiently.
A petition for appointment is submitted to the Inheritance Registrar in the following cases: when it is mutually agreed or when the appointment is of a person who is specified in the will. If there is no consent of all beneficiaries by will or successors by law, as the case may be, the application for appointment is submitted to the authorized Family Court.
The application for appointment of an Executor should be completed, signed with an affidavit, and include the executor’s letter of consent and the beneficiaries or successors consent. The affidavit should clearly specify the reasons for appointment. Several heirs or heirs outside of Israel are usually a good enough cause for such appointment.
The executors duties by law are: to gather the estate’s assets, to manage the estate, to pay the estate’s obligations and debts, to distribute the assets and to take all legal steps towards the execution of an approved will or an inheritance order (the Succession Law, section 82).
The executor must obtain the approval of the family court for any real estate property transactions and other actions, as specified by the court in the letter of appointment. The court may, at its own discretion, or as a result of an application by an interested party, instruct the executor in any matter related to the executor’s duties.
Within 60 days after appointment, the executor is obliged to submit to the General Guardian a list of the estate’s assets and debts verified by the executor’s own affidavit as well as annual financial reports. The specifications about the financial reports in all estate matters are set forth in the Succession Regulations.
Should the executor wishes to resign, the court must approve the resignation and set a date for it to be valid. Moreover, the court is authorized to dismiss an executor if his duties were not properly fulfilled or if the court believes there is a reason for such dismissal.
If more than one executor is appointed, they must act in mutual consent. Otherwise, they have to appeal to the family court for instructions.
The executor must invite all of the deceased creditors or debtors to inform him of their claims; the invitation is publicly advertised and a period of three months is allocated by law for the executor to wait for debtor claims. It is usually not allowed to distribute the estate’s assets before the passage of time allocated for debtor claims.
Distribution: only after clearing of all debs, will the estate be distributed. However, in certain cases the court may approve partial distribution before debt payment and even before the end of the time allocated for debtors claims.
The estate assets are distributed upon the successors mutual agreement or – without such agreement – by a court order (section 111). The executor is obliged to submit a "distribution plan” to the family court.
Within 30 days after final distribution, the executor’s duty is to file to the court the "distribution list”, verified by the executor’s own affidavit.
We have illustrated above some pragmatic issues that are addressed by the Israeli Law in relation to estate execution and practical distribution of deceased assets (from the point of view of the successors).
An executor may be beneficial for the successors in cases that involve, for instance, several successors who reside in different countries; when procedures are paused for lack of mutual agreement; where one of the successors or beneficiaries is unknown or not found, and the distribution process is thus put on hold; etc.
Israeli lawyers and/or other local professionals could be recruited for the mission and act as executors.
As vast as the executor’s roles may be, they are carefully structured by the Israeli Law: the family court supervises the executor’s actions on behalf of the estate. The executor is limited to work in the range specifically dictated by the law, and to routinely report to the court and apply for court’s approval for many actions.
It should be noted, however, that the lawyers in Israel (representing one or several successors) may assist all interested parties with reaching an understanding, so it could be possible to execute the estate by means of a mutual agreement, and without an appointment of an executor. The proceedings taken by heirs in mutual consent are also specified in the Succession Law (sections 121-125). Most of the rules related to clearing of debt and distribution apply to estate management by heirs without an executor.