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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How to execute a will that will hold up legally and halachicly.

As it is well-known, that according to Jewish law there are many strict rules for wills and inheritance (Yerusha in Hebrew). The basic rules that people commonly wish to circumvent are the requirement that a man’s sons are his sole heirs, and the bechor (legal firstborn) would receive a double share. Wives and single daughters receive living expenses from the male heirs, although to fully comprehend these divisions requires much scholarly study and is beyond the scope of this article.

The issue with writing a simple will that allows the wife to inherit fully, or all children to receive equal portions, is that the contract does not take effect until after death, at which time a person has no authority to make monetary transfers according to Jewish law. The Rabbis therefore advise a method to enable a will that accords with halacha and will be upheld in Beth Din. There are three basic steps to the procedure:

  1. A man writes up a note of debt owed to his daughter or wife, that obligates him to pay an enormous sum of money to her. This allows the daughter to become a creditor on the father’s estate, which would take precedence to any inheritance to the sons. 
  2. Stipulated in that note is if the sons give a said percentage of the estate to her, then the note become void. In that way, unless the sons follow the will’s divisions, they would not receive any inheritance, and all will go to the daughter, now as a creditor. 
  3. One should also write up a standard will in order that the secular courts will recognize whatever is stipulated in the halachic will. 
There are other factors that should be addressed when writing up both your Jewish will and the secular will to mitigate all potential risks and outcomes. It is best to have the will executed by a lawyer that is knowledgeable in both civil law and halacha.

Novak, Juhase, & Stern has set up a subsidiary company that will produce your wills for a minimal fee. Our customized system allows for an affordable and accurate will in a short amount of time and will keep with all Jewish laws. Stay tuned for updates on the new website, or call 516-569-3030 for your will today. 

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