Interviews

Interview with Avner Slater, Esquire

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Helping Yishuv Eretz Yisrael – Bilingual Legal Services

Avner Slater, Esq. has been practicing law for ten years, the last five at his own firm. His primary fields of practice are real estate and wills. Avner’s family made aliyah when he was six-years-old, which enabled him to become fully bilingual. Avner currently lives in Jerusalem with his wife and children.

Why is it so important to have a real estate lawyer who speaks your language – literally and figuratively?
Your lawyer has to be able to explain to you the ins and outs of the process you are embarking upon. This process is complex and sometimes onerous, and you need to understand it in order to be able to cooperate with your attorney. Speaking your language literally is imperative, obviously. Figuratively, hiring someone who understands your needs, makes it more tolerable and possibly even pleasant.

At the same time, as important as it is to be amiable and accommodating to the clients, the attorney must have what it takes to push things through the bureaucratic system.

How can a well-seasoned attorney help clients avoid costly pitfalls even though they are already using a professional real estate agent?
The attorney’s job begins where the realtor’s ends. While your realtor will help you find the optimal apartment, it’s the attorney’s job to do the proper legal research, negotiate the legal terms of the sale contract, and inform the client in advance of the tax ramifications which apply to this deal, plus what other expenses or fees he can expect to pay, thus preventing unpleasant surprises. By “legal research”, I mean making sure that the apartment belongs to the seller and that the latter is legally allowed to sell it.

What happens if a dispute arises after a contract is signed?
The attorney’s job is to try to make sure disputes don’t happen by preparing a contract which is fair to both sides and making sure that both parties understand what their obligations are. In addition, if the contract is written properly, it will stipulate in advance how disputes are to be resolved. Some say they will be resolved by the courts. Personally, I prefer to put in the name of a local Rav respected by both sides, who can help resolve things quickly and according to Da’as Torah.

Can you give us a tip what to look out for when buying an apartment?
There are many things to look out for but an essential one is to make sure the apartment you buy is eventually registered in your name. Too often this point is overlooked, especially when you buy “on paper” (an apartment not yet built or not yet completed), and years go by before you finally get the key and move in. Make sure that you are the registered owner and not just the key holder (and arnona payer), and that if the registration of the property in your name must be delayed, your lawyer knows that this is part of his responsibility.

How does it work if a will was written abroad but the deceased lived in Israel?
I strongly recommend that people have a separate will for their assets here in Israel. This should be prepared in Israel by an Israeli attorney (fluent in English, naturally, so he can properly understand the stipulations of the first will). It doesn’t really matter where the will was written, so much as how it was written – to be valid here, it has to be drawn up according to the requirements of Israeli law.

What is a halachic” will? What makes it halachic? Can a non-religious lawyer write such a will?
If you want property or bank accounts to change hands, naturally your initial concern is that your will be considered legally a proper will. At the same time, as religious Jews, we want our wills to be correct and binding halachically as well. There are a few clauses which should be added to the will, in order to make it “halachic.” Mainly, the point is to give “immediately before death” gifts to the designated heirs. Since the Torah stipulates that the firstborn son receives a double portion and daughters receive no inheritance at all, if you wish to distribute your assets differently you must state in your will that you want to gift them to the desired recipients before your death, before the laws of yerusha come into play.

It is safe to assume that even a lawyer who is not yet Torah-observant but lives in our Torah environment knows what those clauses are. However you should make clear to your lawyer in advance that you want a halachic will, and ensure that he or she can deliver the goods. By the way, your will can be probated by either the Rasham HaYerushot or the Bet Din of Misrad HaDatot.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I come from a family which takes the mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael very seriously. So it is honor and a privilege to help people buy or rent homes here, thus helping them carry out this important mitzvah.

33 Yaffo St. Jerusalem

02-582-5210

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