“… And you shall pass his inheritance on to his daughter!” (Bamidbar 27:8)
It is a positive commandment that one must dispense justice in regards to the laws of inheritances in the way that the Torah commanded us to, as it says “A man who dies and does not have a son, and you shall pass his inheritance to his daughter, and if he does not have a daughter then you shall pass his inheritance on to his brother etc.” and the chapter finishes “And it will be for the children of Yisrael as a permanent statute like Hashem commanded Moshe!”. The Torah informs us that the rights of the inheritor is tied up with the possessions of the man leaving the inheritance, and when, at the time of death, the owner loses his possessions, the rights of the inheritor take effect immediately.
Chazal said because of this that if the benefactor commanded that his son should not inherit him, it has no legal validity, as he has no powers to uproot that which Hashem said that an inheritor receives the inheritance. Even though a person’s belongings are given over to him for all his wishes, and he can give the as a present to whoever he wants, and he may even destroy them, nevertheless he may not change the laws of inheritance after his death, as this thing is against the will of Hashem.
Amongst the roots of this commandment is so that a person should know and reflect that the whole world is in the hand of the Master who oversees all of His creations, and it is His good will that each and every person would merit to own certain worldly possessions, which he acquires in this world, and Hashem’s will is that this present should continue forever to whoever He gives it. However, because of sins it was decreed that all people should die, but the removal of the body of the man is not a reason to stop the present of Hashem, so the law is that this present should continue and spread out to another body who comes from him, which refers to his son or daughter, and if he has no progeny, then the present of Hashem will return to somebody who is close to him, which refers to his brothers and parents, for this blessing which he merited was in his own merit and the merit of his parents, or that together with his close relatives he learned the skills with which he acquired this wealth. It is therefore fitting that when a person leaves the world that his relatives who helped him through his life should receive his possessions.
Amongst the laws of this commandment are that the son precedes the daughter, and the descendants of the son (if the son is deceased) precede the daughter. The daughter precedes the brothers, and all of the descendants of the daughter (if she dies) take precedence over the brothers. The brothers of the deceased (or, if there are no brothers, then the sister) takes precedence over the uncles. The uncles (father’s brothers, and if there are none, then father’s sisters) take precedence over any other relations. An illegitimate brother or son, inherits like anyone else. This is true even if he does not conduct himself as a religious Jew. However, a child born from a woman who us not Jewish, is not considered to be Jewish for any purposes.
Chazal decreed that a person should inherit his wife, and they found an allusion in the verse.
Other laws of inheritance include that the oldest son takes a double portion, so if there are two sons, the inheritance is divided into three and the oldest receives two thirds, and if there are three sons, the inheritance is divided into four and the oldest son receives half etc. The father is trusted to say that this is his oldest son. he is similarly trusted to say that this is his son or that this is not his son, as the Torah trusted him for these purposes. It is, however, true that for certain rules of lineage he is not trusted to invalidate his son, but for inheritance purposes he is always believed.
This commandment applies in all places and at all times, both to men and to women. One who leaves a commandment that one of his sons should not inherit him, even though his words have no effect, has transgressed this commandment.