A unique inheritance case involving seven brothers of Iranian descent, one residing in Iran, was recently adjudicated in the Tel Aviv Family Court.
The brother living in Iran filed a lawsuit to nullify the execution of their parents' will, made in Israel, alleging he signed the inheritance documents without understanding Hebrew. However, Judge Yehoram Shaked dismissed the brother's claim, affirming that he was fully aware of what he had signed.
Beyond the family conflict, the affair sheds light on the fact that despite the hostility and the complete severance of ties between the two countries, a citizen from Iran managed to take part in a civil proceeding in Israel and even visit.
The verdict does not detail the confidential procedures that enabled an Iranian citizen to participate in the case. It seems some actions were facilitated by the plaintiff's son, who had immigrated to Israel. Despite challenges, Iranian Jews have managed to travel to Israel over the years, typically through pre-arranged plans, transiting via a third country and using a special transit certificate. This is done to avoid stamping their Iranian passports at Israeli border control.
The father of the seven brothers died in Israel in 1996 and left behind a will. His wife died six years later and did not leave a will. In May 2009, a decree was issued to uphold the father's will and another inheritance decree for the mother. Later, the plaintiff, a resident of Iran, along with five of his brothers, signed an affidavit relinquishing their rights in favor of the seventh brother, who was then declared as the sole heir to their parents' estate.
A decade passed and, in April 2019, the brother who lives in Iran - with the help of his son who immigrated to Israel - filed a lawsuit against the inheritance arrangement, claiming that he did not understand the documents he signed at the time because they were written in Hebrew. Alternatively, he claimed that his signature was forged and the decrees should be canceled and the inheritance redistributed.
The inheriting brother's argument cited the statute of limitations since the lawsuit was filed more than a decade after the signing of the affidavits of disinheritance. If it is determined that the lawsuit is time-limited, he added, it should be dismissed due to the original delay.
Judge Shaked stated at the beginning of the verdict: "I find it premature to say that the lawsuits filed by the plaintiff are an example of the misuse of legal proceedings, while making unfounded and baseless claims and, just as importantly, defaming innocent people and attributing actions to them bordering on and even tainted with crimes."
The judge also upheld the claim of the inheriting brother regarding the delay in filing the lawsuit. It was revealed in the evidence that the plaintiff's son immigrated to Israel in 2015 and, in collaboration with his father, began investigating the status of the family property. Nevertheless, the lawsuit to nullify the inheritance orders was filed over three years later. The judge deemed this a substantial delay, which alone justified the outright rejection of the claim.
In the verdict, the plaintiff's claims were also rejected on their merits. The claim regarding the language difficulties was rejected in light of the testimony of the lawyer who prepared the affidavits - the husband of one of the sisters - who said that he explained to the plaintiff in detail what he was signing. He added that, before signing the withdrawal affidavits, the plaintiff received an orderly email from him that included a copy of them, so that he would understand exactly what he was signing. The judge found the lawyer's testimony credible.
The plaintiff's claim of forging his signature also collapsed after a graphologist on behalf of the court determined with an estimate of more than 90% accuracy that the signatures on the resignation affidavits are authentic. The judge concluded that the emerging picture is that the lawyer and the other brothers acted in good faith and did not deceive the plaintiff. He ordered the dismissal of the lawsuit and charged the plaintiff and his son, together and separately, for the attorney's fees of the other brothers in the amount of NIS 50,000 ($13,000)