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Hilchos Choshen Mishpat

Volume III : Number 21

Gifts To Minors


Question:

Who actually owns gifts that are given to children that are minors and are supported by their parents? Is there any difference whether these gifts are money or items like candies, toys, and books?

Does it make a difference whether these gifts were received from their parents, relatives, teachers, or any other person?

Does the age of the minor receiving the gift make any difference at all?


Answer:

There are many factors involved in answering these questions, as follows:

  1. Any gifts of items that are designated for use by children, such as candies, toys, or children's books that are given to them by anyone other than their own parents, belong solely to the children, whether they are considered Halachically minors or adults (above the ages of 12 for girls and 13 for boys).

    However, if their own parents gave them a gift, although the children are certainly permitted to use it, it remains technically owned by the parents if the children were minors at the time of the gift. This is true as long as the gift exists. However, if the children were adults at the time that the gift was given, the gift belongs to the children, even when given by a parent.

  2. According to Halacha, any money received by children as a gift when they are minors, actually belongs to their father. However, if the father explicitly agrees that the money belongs to the children, it becomes theirs to do with whatever they wish.

    There is a disagreement among the Poskim whether money given as a gift to adult children (who are supported by their parents) belongs to their father or to them. According to the Ran and the Nimukei Yosef it belongs to the father, unless it is known that the father is happy to let the child have it. According to the Rema and the SM"A, it belongs to the child under all circumstances.

    If the father himself gave a monetary gift to the child, the Halacha as stated above in Answer A regarding other types of presents applies here also. (1)


Sources:

(1) The Gemara in Bava Metziah (12b) states that according to Rabbi Yochanan, our Rabbis decreed that any ownerless object found by a child who is supported by his father actually belongs to the father, even if the child is Halachically an adult. This was done to minimize Aivah - animosity - between parent and child, since the father might feel that it is not fair that he should have to support his child and not have a right to income that comes to the child. This is stated as the Halacha in the Shulchan Oruch, Choshen Mishpat 270:2.

The Chiddushei HaRan and the Nimukei Yosef there (6a) state that this also applies to gifts given by others to a child, even an adult who is being supported by his father. Even in this case, the reason of Aivah might apply, and the gift therefore Rabbinically belongs to the father.

On the other hand, if the father personally gave the child the gift, obviously there is no concern of Aivah if the child keeps it! However, there is an entirely different issue here. If the child is a minor, our Chaza"l tell us that a minor does not have a "hand" (Yad) to acquire something from someone else, anything that he acquires becomes his fathers. Therefore, although the father gave the present to the child, and the child certainly has permission to use it, technically the owner of the present is still the father. This is true even if the child is a minor who is no longer being supported by his father, as stated in the Shulchan Oruch, Orach Chaim 366:10 (see the Mishna Berura there). If the child is an adult, as we stated before, there is no such problem, and whether he is supported by his father or not, if the father gives him a present, it is entirely his, since he does have a "Yad" to acquire things, and the Rabbinic decree of Aivah is not applicable in such a case.

It appears that according to this, any time an adult or minor child receives a present from others, and there is no possibility of Aivah, it would belong entirely to them. For example, toys, candy, children's books or anything that the father has no interest in keeping for himself, since others are giving it to the child, it would belong to even a minor child, as stated by the Rema in Choshen Mishpat 243:15. On the other hand, monetary and other valuable gifts would belong to the father, if they are given to a minor child, or adult child that he is supporting, unless he indicates that he has no personal interest in the gift and wishes it to belong solely to the child.

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This week's class is based on a column by Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz, who is an Av Bet Din and Rosh Kollel in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem. His column originally appears in Hebrew in Toda'ah, a weekly publication in Jerusalem. It has been translated and reprinted here with his permission and approval. His columns have recently been compiled and published in a three volume work called Mishpetei HaTorah, which should be available from your local Sefarim store.

Feedback is appreciated! It can be sent toatendler@torah.org.


This week's class is based on a column by Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz, who is an Av Bais Din and Rosh Kollel in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem. His Column originally appears in Hebrew in Toda'ah, a weekly publication in Jerusalem. It has been translated and reprinted here with his permission and approval.

We hope you find this class informative and stimulating! If you do not see a subscription form to the left of the screen, access the Advanced Learning Network to subscribe to Business-Halacha.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and other Project Genesis classes, send mail to learn@torah.org for an automated reply. For subscription assistance, send mail to gabbai@torah.org.

Please Note: The purpose of this column is to make people aware of Choshen Mishpat situations that can arise at any time, and the Halachic concepts that may be used to resolve them. Each individual situation must be resolved by an objective, competent Bais Din (or Rabbinic Arbitrator) in the presence of all parties involved!

 
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