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If I give a check to someone (as a gift) and I change my mind, am I halachically allowed to cancel it, or do we say that the check is a shtar, and by signing it is considered as if I gave him the money?

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Why should you be allowed? –  Gershon Gold Sep 22 '11 at 18:33
    
@gershon yes, although there could other applications, this one is the simplest. –  Shmuel Brin Sep 22 '11 at 18:35
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If it is not a shtar, just a piece of paper informing the bank to give this person money, then why shouldn't I be able to cancel it? –  Shmuel Brin Sep 22 '11 at 18:36
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2 Answers

I would argue that part of the institution of check-writing is the understanding that one may cancel the transfer of funds at any time up until the funds have actually been drawn. Keep in mind:

  1. If a dispute arises over the legitimacy of the check itself, or if one decides to cancel a gift, then one has that right. I think that in many cases, like this one, Halachah would follow the normative practice with regard to the vehicle used to transfer the funds.

  2. The check is NOT a contract. I cannot execute a purchase of real property by writing "Property purchase - 123 Main St., Anytown, IL 12345" in the memo line of a check without a separate, fully binding contract dealing with said purchase. A mere phone call to the bank would override whatever is written on the check.

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Re "The check is NOT a contract. I cannot execute a purchase... by writing... in the memo line...": True, but it is a legally effective document authorizing the drawee to do something. And (CYLattorney, but I think) statements the drawer puts atop the endorsement area which are signed under are binding. (I wonder whether "I hereby give drawer 123 Main St., Anytown, IL 12345; these funds are consideration." there works.) –  msh210 Oct 5 '11 at 18:37
    
But the underlying principle is that the writer of the check retains the right to cancel it until the funds have been drawn. A mere phone call to the bank would override whatever is written on the check, hence it is not a binding contract. –  Seth J Oct 5 '11 at 18:48
    
True, and that's what you said in the first paragraph of the answer. I wasn't sure where you were going with your "The check is NOT a contract..." point, so simply addressed it at its face value in my previous comment. –  msh210 Oct 5 '11 at 18:52
    
@msh210 Do my edits make my point clearer? –  Seth J Oct 5 '11 at 19:05
    
Yes, very nicely. –  msh210 Oct 5 '11 at 22:14
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Based on the legal definition of a check it would seem to me that it is alot more than just a piece of paper, and you have no right to cancel it.

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According to the definition you linked to, you should be able to cancel. Although it is more than a piece of paper, it doesn't seem to create an hischayavus, just the right to draw from your account. –  YDK Sep 23 '11 at 14:50
    
I will let the scholars determine if my interpertation or yours is correct. –  Gershon Gold Sep 23 '11 at 15:01
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