Question:

Hello,

I live in a relatively small town with a small but active Jewish community. Over the years my family has befriended an old Jewish man, who has no living relatives or descendants. We have become his adoptive family, inviting him for Shabbos, yom tov, checking on him etc for many years.
Recently he passed away. We paid for his kevrua, levaya etc, and are trying to clear away his possessions. He did not leave any will or means of contacting anyone in the event of his death. He doesn’t have anything of real value or money but does have a lot of possessions, mostly clothing, tools, etc. My question is, is it appropriate for my family to keep any of his possessions as keepsakes, and/or sell some of them to try and pay for the funeral expenses.? Thank you very much.

Answer:

Essentially there is no one Jewish (except a ger that isn’t married and doesn’t have children from after his geirus) that doesn’t have relatives. If he doesn’t have children, then it would go to his father, or his brothers, his fathers brothers, or their children etc. Therefore there definitely are relatives. Therefore you may not take the possessions because they belong to whoever is the inheritor. It would be a mitzva of hashovas aveida on your part to find the inheritor, this might be able to be done by finding out who his father was and doing a search according to that. (There are sites that can do ancestry searches etc.) The expenses that you incurred for the funeral, burial etc. essentially have to be paid for by the inheritors, therefore you may sell these items, or take some of them and deduct their present value to offset the expenses that you incurred for the funeral etc.

Tizku L’mitzvos

Sources:

Y:D 348-2.

Tags: order of Inheritance

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