Monday, August 25, 2008

The Jewish Clause

I saw in the Chicago Tribune this morning that a Chicago dentist named Max Feinberg expressed in his will his wish to disinherit any descendant "who married outside the Jewish faith." Following litigation initiated by one of his grandchildren, the Illinois Appellate Court noted that it would be "contrary to public policy" to honor Max Feinberg's wish.

I need some help here. I am not an estate planner. I did take Trusts and Estates about six or seven years ago, but I think I sold that text for pizza money about two days after the final. First of all, this wasn't the public's money. It was Max Feinberg's money. So how can the court overrule his wishes based on public policy considerations. Three judges think they can dictate how this guy can divy up the money that he spent seventy years saving. That's ridiculous. I don't think this has any public policy implications whatsoever. He didn't say "My descendants must marry Jews." He said "You can marry whoever you want, but if you want my money, you must marry a Jew." How are these kids automatically entitled to any of his money??? He built his own fortune. He should be able to do with it as he chooses.

Of course, I haven't read the court's opinion. I'm just giving you my initial reaction after reading this article today. There are probably arguments expressed by the Appellate Court of which I am not smart enough to come up with on my own as I sit here typing this off the top of my head.

I would be thrilled to hear from some estate planners out there. What are your thoughts on this case and its implications for your practice.

1 comment:

Michael W. Huseman said...

I had another thought after hitting the post button.

What would have happened if one of his grandaughters' husbands had converted to Judaism for about two weeks to secure a portion of the multimillion dollar fortune?

How do you prove some one is not Jewish if they claim to be?

Interesting stuff!