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LAWYER’S WILL DRAFTING LIKELY TO COST MILLIONS TO DECEDENT’S PARTNER

As a result of poorly worded language drafted in a Will by a New York lawyer, the surviving companion of 18 years of the deceased is likely to be disinherited. The Last Will and Testament of 84 year old New York City psychologist, Jill Morris (“Jill”), stated that her partner, Joan Anderson (“Joan”), was to be the beneficiary of her “tangible personal property” only if she outlived Jill by 30 days. Joan identified certain assets as tangible personal property including her diamond rings, paintings, etc. (which are examples of personal property) and her 2 pieces of New York real estate (which was a drafting error by the attorney since real estate is considered real property – not personal property). Joan died 12 days after Jill. Jill’s real estate is worth millions of dollars. The Will indicated that the residue was to be distributed to a few charities (Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children and The National Resources Defense Council).

Joan’s daughter has argued that it was drafting error since real property is not personal property and that only the personal property should be subject to the 30 day limitation and the intent was the real property go to Joan. She even had a witness who said that was Jill’s intent. Joan’s daughter also argued that they should be treated as if they were married. She said that they didn’t legally marry due to concern that it would impact Jill’s psychology practice, and they thought it was a stigma to be married as a gay couple especially with the senior community. However, the court ruled the real estate should go to charities named in the Will as a result of the way the Will was written (since Joan didn’t survive Jill by 30 days). Although it is possible that Jill wanted her real estate to go to her significant other, the court went by the language of the Will. Joan’s daughter is appealing.

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