The Halachic Will

At the bottom of this page you will find a copy of a Hallachic Will. It is highly recommended that you use it only with the aid and supervision of a qualified rabbi.

A brief synopsis:

The Torah provides that the property of a deceased person is to be inherited by his relatives in accordance with a certain order of priorities.

For example,

· a first born male receives a double portion

· the widow and the daughters do not usually receive an inheritance (however there is an obligation on the beneficiaries to provide certain support to the widow and any minor daughters)

· the wife’s estate is automatically inherited by the husband

The Torah permits us to alter these priorities by making distributions or creating obligations that take effect during the lifetime of a deceased person. The halachic will is a Rabbinically approved method to change the priorities of succession.

The halachic will works as follows:

· The person making the will assumes a debt[1] that is large enough to cover the entire estate.

· The debt should ideally be in favour of a person or institution that is not an heir to the estate under the rules of the Torah.

· The debt is payable immediately before death.

· If the Torah heirs do not agree to make the payments in accordance with the wishes of the deceased then the debt must be paid out of the estate and the Torah heirs end up with no distribution.

· If the Torah heirs agree to make the payments in accordance with the wishes of the deceased then the debt is cancelled.

· In this way, all persons concerned will follow the wishes as expressed in the will and at the same time distribute the estate in a manner permitted by the Torah but which differs from the Torah’s order of priorities.

The function of the halachic will is to validate the last and final will authored by the deceased and to remove the prohibition of gezel (stealing). Once the halachic will is signed, the secular will can be actioned by the trustee under secular law in the same manner as any other will. In the absence of a signed halachic will, if the secular will is actioned in accordance with secular law, the beneficiaries will end up with money which is not theirs according to Torah law (ie gezel).

The halachic will is not enforceable in a court of law and is not to be provided to the court. The only purpose of the halachic will is make sure that the secular will is acceptable according to halacha.

The halachic will only needs to be entered into once. The person making the halachic retains the ability to alter their will as they wish.

[1] A neder (vow) is not effective for this purpose because it ceases to have effect when the person making the vow dies. In contrast, a financial obligation that a person has accepted upon oneself remains in effect even after the person dies.