Adding addendums in your last will & testament for funeral & burial arrangements in Israel.
In my office’s elder law practice (where we do wills, continuing powers of attorney, and estate work), I have been approached by clients a number of times asking me about putting directives in their wills regarding funeral arrangements for their burial in Israel.
While this may be appropriate place to give these directives in other countries, in Israel it really isn’t. Let me explain why. In Israel the will is usually read after the family has finished sitting Shiva. Since Shiva only starts after the person has been buried, then if there were specific burial directions in the will, then there is a good chance that they will not have been honored. This is even the case when nobody has any bad intentions – simply because many people do not share the contents of their will with other people (or inheritors) prior to their passing away.
So what should people do?
This is a trick that I learned from the sad situation that occurred with the passing of Rona Ramon (the late wife of deceased Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, for whom the airport in Eilat is named). When Rhona passed away, she wanted her body to be cremated. A legal battle ensued since in Israel cremation is not generally an accepted means of internment of the dead. The bottom line, without getting into the specifics of the case, is that from that point one of the standard practices that we do is to put specific directives for people who want to be cremated into a continuing power of attorney. The reason that is that the continuing power of attorney (which is like an advanced health directive plus more things) is utilized prior to a person’s passing. Even when the person is fortunate enough not to have to invoke the continuing power of attorney, since it’s registered in Israel with the Ministry of Justice, and since people who are appointed as decision-makers pursuant to the continuing power of attorney know what’s inside of the document, there are people who know what a person’s directives regarding funeral arrangements are.
So getting back to my original question I am asked about adding addendums in the will for funeral arrangements. What I’ve recommended to people to do is that whatever arrangements they want to have for their funeral should be detailed in their continuing powers of attorney – even if it’s not for cremation. Then in the will itself as a standard clause, funeral costs are deducted from the estate before the estate is distributed to the inheritors.
If you or one of your loved ones have questions about wills and Estates and or continuing powers of attorney, advanced health directives, etc. in the state of Israel then please feel free to call my office. Our Israel number is 077-200-8161 and our United States number is 201-696-3947.