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Shabbat Parashat Beha'alotcha | 5768

Does a Guardian Remain After Inheritors Bar Mitzva?

P'ninat Mishpat

Does a Guardian Remain After Inheritor’s Bar Mitzva?

(based on Halacha Psuka, vol. 44 - a condensation of  Piskei Din Rabbaniim vol. III, pp. 154-160)


Case: A man appointed, before dying, his adult daughters (the defendants = def) to be guardians for his son, the inheritor. His wife (the plaintiff = pl) was to control his seforim store and care for the child for two years. After two years, she demanded support as a widow from def. Def claim that since the son is now 14 years old, they are no longer guardians and do not have to respond.

Ruling: The Shulchan Aruch (CM 290:1) rules that one should appoint a guardian to tend to his minor children’s financial affairs until they grow up. If he does not, beit din must appoint one. He clearly implies that there is no need to appoint a guardian for “adult” inheritors. The Rama (ibid.:26) says that if one did appoint a guardian for adults, they can refuse him unless the matter pertains to a case where it is “a mitzva to listen to the words of the deceased.” Apparently, though, the guardian continues his role until the inheritor objects. However, this refers to a case where the guardian was appointed specifically for that purpose; if he was appointed simply when the inheritors were small, the guardianship would end when they grew up. Although we now view anyone up to 18 as a minor, in our context we must consider the father’s intention; out of doubt, we should not give def a status they deny.

Our presentation of an orphan adolescent’s status does not seem unanimous. One many lend money on an orphan’s behalf with ribbit d’rabbanan (rabbinic-level usury). The Rama (YD 160:18) says that this leniency applies even after the orphan’s bar mitzva, as long as he is not fit to handle his own fiscal affairs. The same guideline ostensibly applies to guardianship.

There are two elements to guardianship: 1) He tends to his “client’s” affairs; 2) He does so without his client’s authorization. The first element depends on the orphan’s practical needs, including lending with ribbit d’rabbanan. However, regarding authorization, a bar mitzva can decide if he needs help and who should give it. When the adolescent is before us, we can do nothing without his authorization. Therefore, he should be involved in any claims on his inheritance, as def claim.

Furthermore, the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.:12) rules that a guardian does not respond to a claim against orphans, as he might lose, but if he did and won, the ruling stands. Since this entire claim is to the orphan’s detriment, there should be no case. Although the Shulchan Aruch (Even Ha’ezer 95:6) says that a widow can demand support and beit din does not deal with the part of her salary that is to be given to them until they demand it, that is only in a case where the obligation to her is clear. In contrast, in our case, several questions were raised regarding whether the orphan is obligated to support the widow.






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