Shapira v. Union National Bank
39 Ohio Misc. 28, 315 N.E.2d 825 (1974)

  • Shapira died, leaving a valid will and three children, Daniel, Mark, and Ruth. The will gave each child a third of the estate, with a specified condition…
    • The shares for Daniel and Mark were held in trust. If they did not marry a Jewish girl within 7 years, they lost their share and it instead went to the State of Israel.
  • Daniel contested the will claiming that the provision violated the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution (14th Amendment).
    • Daniel argued that this restriction was unreasonable and was against public policy.
  • The Trial Court upheld the will and entered it into probate.
    • The Trial Court found that the freedom to marry is constitutionally protected under the 14th Amendment.
    • However the Trial Court found that Shapira was a private citizen and as such was not required to meet the same constitutional standards as a Federal or State agency.
      • Daniel argued that because the courts were used to enforce the will, it should be required to meet constitutional standards.
    • The Trial Court noted that if Shapira was still alive and told Daniel that he’d give him an inter vivos gift if he married a Jewish girl, Daniel would not be able to force him to make the gift free of the condition.
    • The Trial Court also found that Shapira’s conditions represented only a partial restriction on marriage. If the terms of the will were the Daniel could never marry anyone, or that he had to divorce his current spouse, the terms might be unlawfully restrictive. However partial restrictions seem to be ok, based on common law.
      • Also, the terms couldn’t require someone to do anything illegal.
      • Also, in order to be reasonable, the terms in the will have to be very well defined. You couldn’t tell someone to, “marry a nice girl.”
  • An interesting question would be what if Daniel were gay? Would that make the stipulation that he marry a girl unreasonable?