Shabbat Parashat Shemot| 5766
Transfer of Rights in An Apartment to Inheritors - Excerpts from Piskei Din Rabbaniim - vol. IX, pp. 3-7
Case: A charitable institution (=ci)encouraged people to donate money to be used to build apartments. An agreement stipulated that the donors could live in the apartment (or rent it out) and designate a family member to live there for five years after their death. A woman did so and later married; ci allowed the husband to be considered a donor. The two designated his son as the recipient of the five-year right. The woman died, and her husband remarried before dying. The son asked ci to let the widow stay in the apartment, which she did for 20 years. She then died, as did the son. The son’s inheritors want to exercise his right of five years, claiming that the widow’s stay was her own right to stay in her husband’s home. Otherwise, ci would not have allowed her to stay for 20 years.
Ruling: [The ruling was unanimous, but the following is the reasoning of one dayan. Another came to the same conclusion for different reasons.]
The Shulchan Aruch (CM 209:7) rules that if one sells a field to someone but stated that a third party can eat a certain amount of its fruit per year, that party does not get the fruit, because his rights were not based in the land. If the seller designated the fruit for himself, we assume that he did so in a strong way and retained rights in the land. However, his inheritors do not receive those rights. The Rivash (Shut 257) distinguishes between a case where the seller retained something specific and a case where he retained general rights. In the former case, he sold part of the property and left part of the property unsold, and, therefore, his inheritors receive that part after his death. In the latter, the whole field was sold, and although he maintains certain rights within it, these rights are only for him, unless specified otherwise.
Upon reading the agreement in our case, we see that the donor has even less rights after death than the Rivash’s weaker case. The donor only has a right to request of the ci’s governing board that their designee get use of the apartment before other poor people. Therefore, the designee’s offspring clearly has no right of inheritance.
Furthermore, the son’s letter that enabled his stepmother to continue residence was indeed written in terms of transferring his rights to her. Halachically, the widow did not have a claim to stay in the apartment, as she was not one of the donors. Although a widow has a right to stay in the deceased’s home, that is only if it was indeed his home. In this case, though, the apartment belongs to ci, and the rights after death had already been designated to the donors’ son before he remarried. Ci’s claim that the widow stayed on the son’s account and that they just did not want to kick her out after the five years is plausible. Thus, there are two reasons to refuse the son’s inheritors’ demand to live in the apartment for five years.
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