Lawyer's Language: Names and numbers

Lawyer Caroline Walsh answers your questions about coping with the Israeli legal system.

US passport 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
US passport 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
As an Israeli lawyer, I am far more interested in your number than your name. Whether you are buying a house, opening a bank account, making a will or selling your car, you need a number to identify you. A name is not enough. If you have an Israeli identity card, that gives you one number for life. If you don’t, the chances are that when you did any of these things, or just about anything else in Israel, you would have been asked for your passport number and that number is now your official identity here.
Is that a problem? Not at first. For the first five or ten years you'll be fine but then, when you renew your passport, your number will no longer be your number, or more accurately, you will now be a new number. More than that, as far as the Israeli system is concerned, you are now not only a new number but you are no longer the same person.
Q: My wife and I live in Melbourne and we own an apartment in Jerusalem which we bought ten years ago. We want to sell the apartment but it is still registered at the Land Registry with our previous passport numbers and so we are having a problem proving that we are the owners. Can you help?
A: Updating your identification details at the Land Registry is a relatively simple process. A lawyer will prepare affidavits for both you and your wife to confirm that you have updated your passports and therefore the numbers have changed. A third affidavit will be required from someone else who knows you to confirm that you are the same people who purchased the apartment even though your identification numbers have changed. These documents are then submitted to the Land Registry with the appropriate fee (currently NIS 31) and the register should be updated within a few weeks.
Q: Our father, a widower who lived in London and owned an apartment in Bet Shemesh and a bank account in Jerusalem, recently passed away. He purchased the apartment in Bet Shemesh 20 years ago and opened the bank account 11 years ago and so neither are registered with his current passport number. What do we do?
A: In order to transfer ownership of the assets to you, as his heirs, you will need an inheritance or probate order from an Israeli court (even if you already have an order in the UK). In order to open the file, your late father will need to be identified by a number – in this case, his passport number. If you use only his current passport number, the court order will be rejected by the Land Registry and by the bank when you come to transfer ownership, since the numbers will not match.
What we suggest is that you apply for the order here using all his passport numbers, previous and current, and prove that your father held all these different passports. Once you have an order which includes all the relevant passport numbers, you will then be able to gain access to the bank account and to transfer ownership of the property at the Land Registry.
In cases where a probate order has already been obtained in only the current passport number, it is possible to apply, with proof of identity, to amend the order so that it includes previous passport numbers as well.
This article is presented for your general information and does not constitute legal advice. You should obtain specific legal advice about your estate before taking (or deciding not to take) any action. Please contact us for further information.© SaftWalsh 2011. All rights reserved.