Her mother had not made a will, because like everyone else, she "didn't want to think about that", and so her young daughter found herself inheriting 2 million shekels and several properties.
After two years of pain, on reaching the age of 18 Sharon decided to take herself and the money and travel around the world before her army service.
If Sharon's mother had drawn up a will before her death, she could have ensured that her daughter could not touch her inheritance until she was older and perhaps mature enough to handle so much money. But she didn't think of it, and the spontaneous trip was just the beginning…
Sharon reached New York – and fell in love, but unfortunately with the wrong guy. He was an entrepreneur who suggested that she invest her money in his business.
With the typical naivety of the young, Sharon called the bank in Israel and transferred 2 million shekels to the USA, and from there to her boyfriend. Two weeks later, he disappeared, and Sharon found herself without a boyfriend and without any money. That's it, she'd blown the lot, she didn't have a single shekel left. In fact, she even had a "small" debt of tens of thousands of shekels.
At this point, not only had Sharon's life changed, her mother was doubtless turning in her grave, and her father took the responsibility and wrote a will, so that Noa and her younger brothers would not inherit at the age of 18 but gradually and in a more responsible way.
The story of Sharon, who was a good friend of mine, but unfortunately that was before I was a lawyer, made a strong impression on me. As soon as I became a family law attorney I started meeting hundreds of people, individuals and families and later also business owners, and I questioned them all on the significance of the entertaining transfer, their dreams, ambitions and wishes for their property, and about their children, and their children's characters – and I understood that a will is a transaction involving everything one owns. It's the deal of one's life, or perhaps more accurately, the deal of one's death.
The Israeli inheritance laws enable us to educate our loved ones and protect them, particularly the young children who have probably not yet learned how to handle large amounts of money, how to handle the property we leave them.
Anyone can make a will, and it is very important to make a will that takes into account the location of one's money and property. Real estate property in Israel is subject to Israeli inheritance law, while property outside Israel is subject to the law in the relevant country. In every country it is possible to give instructions for gradual distribution of the estate, and how it should be managed, instructions that will "educate" the heirs or their guardians, and "teach" them how to handle the money, how to invest it, and so on. The will can specify that the children will receive some money directly to finance their studies, a monthly allowance, and financing to buy an apartment, for example.
A will of this kind is a "trust". This is a tool with which we can educate our children even after our death and protect them from others (conmen, creditors, partners or spouses), and sometimes from themselves.
With a trust, the deceased can dictate very specific rules for dealing with his estate for many years to come, and supervise the education of his children. For example, it is well known that in Israel one in three couples get divorced; the terms of the will can oblige the heirs to sign property agreements with their spouses regarding their inheritance.
Wills that do not include trust instructions are also important and necessary. A will is entirely and solely the creation of the testator. The laws of inheritance are founded on the right of every individual to make a will in favor of anyone, as he wishes, and to include instructions as to the disposal of his property, and thus to express his wishes, his principles and his hopes after his death.
If I had known then what I know now, I am sure that I could have saved my friend Sharon and her family from a great wrong.
Adv. Shiri Malca is the owner of a firm that handles family law and has a department to manage financial risks in the family, with an emphasis on property in Israel and abroad.