I have a question: my aunt, the wife of my mother’s brother, passed away after both her husband and only daughter (and even their pet poodle….) had left the world. I received a check from her estate: she had given brothers and sisters (from her side and her husband’s side) each an equal portion; in the event that the brother or sister had passed away, the portion was divided equally between their children. My question is if I was allowed, halachically, to receive this money, and if not – do I have to see to whom I would be obliged to return it?
Thank you in advance.
The division that was made is not in accordance with Torah inheritance law.
However, since you were given your portion of the estate based on a legal Will and Testament, many authorities maintain that this is sufficient to render the allocation legally valid even according to Torah law. This is the ruling given by the Achiezer, and although others dispute it, the Cheshev Ha-Efod and other authorities confirm that one can rely on this opinion (this ruling is based on the concept of mitzvah lekayem diveri ha-mes; see briefly here).
Therefore, halachically you can keep the money.
This ruling receives further strength on account of the fact, which I understand from the question, that the other parties involved are not claiming the share of the inheritance, and are content to follow the instructions of the deceased.