Ketubot 84 - The wife, the creditor and the children

When someone dies, his wife wants the Ketubah, his creditors - monies owed to them, and his children want the full inheritance, without paying his debts to anyone.

However, his wife can only take the land, since this is what she relied on when getting married, and so too his creditors. The children automatically get all movables and all precious objects.

What happens to his things that are deposited with somebody, such as at a bank in a safe deposit box? Since the children have not yet taken possession of them, the court should give them to the underdog, that is, the wife or the creditor - this is the opinion of Rabbi Tarfon. Rabbi Akiva argues: you cannot base judgment on the feeling of mercy, the objects are given to the children or other inheritors, to whom they rightfully belong. Even if the wife or creditor seizes the valuables, the court takes them away from her.

Today, when people don't own the land as commonly as they used to, the question is moot, since the wife gets her Ketubah paid from all valuables that the husband has left. Also, everybody agrees that there is a moral obligation on the children to pay their father's debts, it's just that they cannot be forced to do so.

Art: Group portrait of a gentleman and his wife, and their four children by Gerbrand Ban