Law School Case Brief
Shapira v. Union Nat'l Bank - 39 Ohio Misc. 28, 315 N.E.2d 825 (Ct. Com. Pl. 1974)
If the condition in a will were that the beneficiary not marry anyone, the restraint would be general or total, and, at least in the case of a first marriage, would be held to be contrary to public policy and void. A partial restraint of marriage which imposes only reasonable restrictions is valid, and not contrary to public policy. The great weight of authority in the United States is that gifts conditioned upon the beneficiary's marrying within a particular religious class or faith are reasonable.
A testator placed a provision in his will, providing that his two sons would receive a portion of his estate only on the condition that they each marry a Jewish girl whose both parents were also Jewish within seven years of the testator's death. If the condition was not fulfilled, that portion of his estate pass to the State of Israel. One of the sons filed a motion for a declaratory judgment and construction of a will, asserting that the will provision was invalid because it violated the son's constitutional right to marry, and was unenforceable because it was against public policy.
Was the will provision invalid for depriving a beneficiary the constitutional right to marry and was it against public policy?
The court held that the condition contained in the testator's will was a reasonable restriction on the son's right to marriage and was valid. The court rejected the son's premise that the condition violated the federal or state constitutions, because the provision did not restrict his constitutional freedom to marry. It only enforced the testator's restriction upon his son's inheritance. The court explained that the right to receive property by will was a creature of the law and not a natural right or one guaranteed or protected by either the state or federal constitutions. Further, the court held that the provision did not violate public policy because it constituted a partial restraint on marriage, which was a reasonable restriction, and was therefore, valid.
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