Barron Hilton's Fortune

From a recent Reuters article:

NEW YORK, Dec 26 (Reuters) – U.S. hotel heiress Paris Hilton’s potential inheritance dramatically diminished after her grandfather Barron Hilton announced plans on Wednesday to donate 97 percent of his $2.3 billion fortune to charity. …

That money will be placed in a charitable trust that will eventually benefit the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, raising its total value to about $4.5 billion, the foundation said in a statement.

Barron Hilton, chairman of the foundation, intends “to contribute 97 percent of his entire net worth, estimated today at $2.3 billion, including the created trusts, at whatever value it is at the time of his passing,” the foundation said. …

Jerry Oppenheimer, who profiled the Hilton family in his 2006 book “House of Hilton,” has said Barron Hilton is embarrassed by the behavior of his socialite granddaughter Paris and believes it has sullied the family name.

Barron Hilton, who is 80, has not commented on Oppenheimer’s remarks.

The foundation supports projects that provide clean water in Africa, education for blind children, and housing for the mentally ill. Its aims, based on Conrad Hilton’s will, are “to relieve the suffering, the distressed and the destitute.”

Is Barron Hilton’s disinheritance of his granddaughter Halachically appropriate? Halachah generally disapproves of the disinheritance of one’s heirs (or at least sons, as we shall see)1:

כל הנותן נכסיו לאחרים והניח היורשים אף על פי שאין היורשים נוהגים בו כשורה אין רוח חכמים נוחה הימנו וזכו האחרים בכל מה שנתן להם ומדת חסידות שלא להעיד בצואה שמעבירים בו הירושה מהיורש אפילו מבן שאינו נוהג כשורה לאחיו חכם ונוהג כשורה

There are, however, a number of reasons why Mr. Hilton’s plans may not violate this precept:

  • Although Maran, quoting Rambam2, writes היורשים, the Mishnah that is the source of this Din3 reads והניח את בניו, and the Aharonim cite a passage in the Ittur that seems to indicate that the issue is specific to sons; see Hagahos Ya’avetz4, Hikre Lev5, Hasam Sofer6, Aruch Ha’shulhan7, Igros Moshe8, Minhas Yitzhak9 and Be’er Sarim10.
  • Maran writes11

    כל הנותן נכסיו לאחרין והניח היורשים

    While the Gemara seems to clearly indicate that even disposing of merely a portion of one’s estate and not its entirety is still problematic12, there is considerable debate over this point in the Aharonim; see Tashbaz13, Shulhan Aruch Ha’rav14, Hasam Sofer15, Pis’he T’shuvah16, Rashash17, S’de Hemed18, Aruch Ha’shulhan19, Imre Cohen20, Igros Moshe21, Minhas Yitzhak22, Shut Rav Eliyahu Gutmacher23 and Pis’he Hoshen24.

  • While the Gemara seems to clearly indicate that even a bequest to Hekdesh is improper, there is some discussion about this, too, in the Aharonim; see Hasam Sofer25, Pis’he T’shuvah26, Shulhan Aruch Ha’rav27, Igros Moshe28 and K’sones Yosef (Bordugo)29.

Incidentally, I just recently stumbled serendipitously upon an excellent article on this topic by Rabbi Chaim Jachter.

  1. שו”ע חו”מ סימן רפ”ב סעיף א []
  2. נחלות פרק ו’ הלכה י”א []
  3. בבא בתרא דף קל”ג ע”ב []
  4. כתובות דף נ”ג ע”א []
  5. חו”מ חלק ב’ סימן נ”ד []
  6. שו”ת חו”מ סימן קנ”א, הו”ד בפתחי תשובה שם []
  7. שם סעיף ג []
  8. חו”מ חלק ב’ סימן מ”ט ד”ה אבל []
  9. חלק ג’ סימן קלה []
  10. חלק א’ סימן ע []
  11. following the aforementioned Mishnah and Rambam []
  12. כתובות דף נ”ג ע”ב []
  13. חלק ג’ סימן קמ”ז, הו”ד בקצות החושן שם ס”ק ב’ ובפתחי תשובה שם []
  14. הלכות מכירה הלכה ח []
  15. שם []
  16. שם []
  17. בבא בתרא שם []
  18. מערכת ל’ כלל ג’ אות י”ד []
  19. שם []
  20. סימן ל”ב ד”ה והנה []
  21. שם []
  22. שם []
  23. סימן י”א ד”ה ויען []
  24. ירושה פרק ד’ הערה ט []
  25. שם []
  26. שם []
  27. שם ועיין בפירוש אמרי יעקב שם ביאורים ד”ה מותר []
  28. שם סימן נ’ אות ב []
  29. תשובה סוף מ’ ב’ ד”ה זאת ועוד []

One thought on “Barron Hilton's Fortune”

  1. According to Wikipedia, Barron Hilton has eight children, all of whom are alive. As such, he is not disinheriting Paris, per se, but all his children, and therefore according to all opinions would be acting incorrectly. Incidentally, this whole episode is ironic given the following (from the same article): “When Barron’s father died in 1979, he left the bulk of his estate to the Roman Catholic Church and other charities, and almost nothing to his children. Barron contested the will because of his lifelong career of working to build the hotel company and won his lawsuit in 1988. His half-sister, Francesca, lost her case and received nothing.”

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