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Shapira v. Union National Bank

    Brief Fact Summary. Action was brought by Plaintiff for a declaratory judgment and the construction of the will of his father, David Shapira, testator.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A gift conditioned upon the beneficiary marrying within a particular religious class or faith is reasonable.

    Facts. David Shapira, M.D., testator, conditioned his son, Daniel Jacob Shapira, Plaintiff, inheritance under his will upon Plaintiff being married to, or marrying within seven years of testator’s death, a Jewish girl with two Jewish parents. Plaintiff filed suit alleging that such a condition was unconstitutional based upon the premise that the right to marry is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

    Issue. Whether a condition upon inheritance, which is based on marriage, is unconstitutional, contrary to public policy, and unenforceable because of its unreasonableness?

    Held. No. Upholding and enforcing the provisions of the decedent’s will conditioning the bequests to his sons upon their marrying Jewish girls does not offend the Constitution of Ohio or the United States. The conditions contained in decedent’s will are reasonable restrictions. His unmistakable testamentary plan was for his possessions to be used to encourage the preservation of the Jewish faith. The condition did not pressure plaintiff into marriage by the reward of money because the seven year time limit is a reasonable grace period, which would give plaintiff ample time for reflection and fulfillment of the condition without constraint or oppression.

    Discussion. It is a fundamental rule of law in Ohio that a testator may legally disinherit his children. This seems to demonstrate that from a constitutional standpoint, a testator may restrict a child’s inheritance.


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