Battle Over a $9 Million Will Rests on Just One Clause
By Paul Sullivan for The New York Times Dec. 13, 2019
This article speaks to the importance of having informed advice from a lawyer when preparing a will. - Mary O'Byrne
"Jill Morris and Joan Anderson met decades ago in New York City and were romantically involved for close to 20 years. Ms. Morris, a psychologist, died in 2016 at age 84 after suffering for years from cancer. Twelve days later, Ms. Anderson, 76, died of a stroke.
For Emlie Anderson, the loss of her mother and her mother’s partner so close together was devastating. She had moved from Texas to New York to help her mother care for Ms. Morris, she said.
But their deaths weren’t the end of a tough time in her life. They turned out to be the beginning of an estate battle that has pitted Ms. Anderson against three nonprofit organizations that argue that Ms. Morris’s estate, valued at about $9 million, should go to them, not her.
The legal argument centers on the nature of language in Ms. Morris’s will, specifically a sentence in one subsection that treats her common-law wife the same as a dozen friends receiving smaller bequests. But the estate battle has also raised the issue of whether a heterosexual couple, together for the same 20 years, would face the same type of inheritance issue."