Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Jewish Clause...

..."In the first case of its kind ever heard in an Illinois court, judges decide whether someone can disinherit his grandchildren for marrying a non-jew" [Chicago Jewish News]

received via e-mail:
I thought you might be interested in a recent decision by the Illinois Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit, in which the court, in a 2-1 decision, voided a will provision that barred a trust distribution to any grandchild who married a non-Jew (unless the non-Jew converted within a year of the marriage). One of the grandchildren sued. Upholding a lower court decision in the grandchild's favor, the court found that the provision was "against public policy." This was a case of first impression in Illinois; however, similar provisions in Ohio, New York, and Massachusetts have been upheld. The dissent was written by a Jewish justice.

The majority opinion seems to rely primarily on precedents that voided clauses requiring an intended beneficiary to divorce a spouse for one reason or another and on a scholarly document known as the "Restatement of Trusts, 3rd ed." Restatements of law in different fields do not have the force of law but are often relied upon by courts to help reach a decision in matters which are uncharted territory for that court.


  1. I don't necessarily agree with the grandfather's decision (though I think it's pretty low of the grandchild to sue), but since when can a court dictate who a person is allowed to leave their money to? Isn't the decision to disinherit a private decision?

  2. Since there is no legal requirement for a grandparent to leave anything at all to a grandchild how can this case go against public policy? I remember another case that was in the papers a while ago about a parent disinheriting a child because the child was a drug addict and petty criminal. That case stood up. Once you allow any reason why should religion be a public policy issue?

  3. The article explains that Illinois law prohibits clauses in wills that would discourage marriage, or encourage divorce. The court felt that this would fall into that category.

  4. Fascinating case. While I understand the wishes of courts to dictate things for the sake of public policy, I'm shocked that the law has stood. That type of ruling could be expanded to include just about anything that doesn't fit in with what a court determines to be the greater good, if you think about it. Private money shouldn't be able to be taken like that however bigoted the deceased was - we don't force people to give to more general charities rather than ones which fit into their worldview; why should giving money to one's grandchildren be any different?