Imagine finding out you are the heir to an immense fortune.
It sounds like everybody’s dream.
Out of the blue, you discover that you need not scrimp and save, but can benefit from an estate worth many millions, a stately home, and a substantial stipend. It must be like winning the lottery.
We all know there are firms which specialise in seeking out the heirs of legacies, and who has not dreamed of such an event?
The proof is simple. You are entitled to it if you are the senior male relative.
Halacha provides for inheritance to males and for females only during the lifetime of the legator.
The oldest son is supposed to get a double portion, as compensation for providing the first, experimental, child-raising experience for his parents.
These days of course, things are complicated by the possibility of DNA tests.
What do you do if someone shows up claiming to be an heir?
We should perhaps note that the Israeli rabbinate are currently using DNA tests to prove halachic Jewish status – something on which the halacha is unsurprisingly silent, and which is arousing considerable controversy.
Jordan Adlard Rogers recently inherited a £50million country estate in Cornwall based on such a test.
However, being born out of wedlock, halacha might not have recognised his right to inherit, although the DNA, combined with a strong likeness to his father, indicates exceptional links to his father.
Although it has not been legally tested in practice, under halacha the estate could well have gone to a more distant relative.
Rabbi Zvi Solomons is rabbi of JCoB.org, the Living Jewish Community in Reading