It is important to be sure your will conforms to the laws of your state in order to avoid problems.

Confusion continues to exist over rights despite the legalization of gay marriage, according to TheNew York Times in “A Brownstone and the Bitter Fight to Inherit It.”

The Times article chronicles the story of Bill Cornwell and Tom Doyle, who lived as a gay couple for 55 years in a New York City apartment building solely owned by Cornwell. The couple lived in one of the building’s four apartments.

When gay marriage became legal in New York the two did not get married. However, Cornwell had drafted a will that left the apartment building to Doyle. Unfortunately, the will was only witnessed by one person and New York requires that two people witness a will for it to be valid.

As a result, when Cornwell passed away his nieces and nephews laid claim to the apartment building as his closest living relatives.

The nieces and nephews made plans to sell the building. They did include provisions in the sales agreement that Doyle was to be allowed to live in the apartment for five years at a rent of $10 per month and that he was to receive $250,000 from the sale.

That did not satisfy Doyle and he has sued the nieces and nephews.

He claims that he and Cornwell were common law married, but New York does not recognize common law marriages. His claim relies on having visited Pennsylvania with Cornwell to purchase a dog at a time when that state did recognize common law marriages.

An estate planning attorney can guide you in executing a will that meets the laws of your state of residence.

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