The five daughters of Zelophachad approached Moshe to ask if they could inherit their father’s entitlement to land as Zelophachad had no sons. He had died in the wilderness, and was probably one of those who complained about the conditions there. Moshe had to ask G-d for the response, although the answer was quite simple and according to the midrash this was to teach him humility.
R’ Eli Munk quoted from R’ Chidka who explained that Moshe knew all along that the daughters would inherit, but the issue arose because they had not yet conquered the land. Would the rights remain viable until the time of the conquest when they could be actualised? He was told they would be.
Rambam explained the rationale for the laws of inheritances. In the Guide to the perplexed, he pointed out that a moral person would not be jealous of his heir as death approached, and would not squander their assets, but leave it to those most rightfully deserving. The eldest son inherits first, in biblical times. The father can favour his daughters and younger sons, by gifts and even in the will, but cannot do it as part of the inheritance. The closest living relative was to receive the inheritance, if there were neither sons nor daughters. These sentences were further elucidated in the Talmud in Baba Bathra.
Long before women were given the right to inherit property in Western jurisdictions, Jewish law established a form of inheritance and support rights for the surviving wife and female relatives.
The current law in Israel allows for the will to stipulate any beneficiary but if there is no will, the Inheritance Law determines that the estate should be distributed between the deceased’s close relatives. Heirs of the first degree inherit first, and potential heirs of the next degree inherit only if there are no heirs on the closer degree.