Tuesday, March 1, 2011

NY Court Rules Surviving Gay Spouse Can Inherit Estate

For heterosexual couples, a marriage performed anywhere, is recognized everywhere. A New York court has ruled that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same right when it comes to inheritance. WNBC New York reports:
A survivor of a same-sex marriage can inherit as a spouse, an appeals court said Thursday in a ruling a gay-rights legal group called the first appellate decision of its kind in New York.

While same-sex couples can't wed in the state, J. Craig Leiby and H. Kenneth Ranftle were legally married in Canada, so Leiby is entitled to recognition as the surviving spouse in a dispute over Ranftle's estate, the appellate judges said in upholding a lower court's decision.

Leiby and Ranftle married in Montreal on June 7, 2008, after being together for nearly 25 years, according to court papers. Financial and professional services workers, they lived and worked in New York City.

Ranftle died of lung cancer Nov. 1, 2008, according to an obituary notice.

One of Ranftle's brothers, Richard, sought to contest the will and challenged the legitimacy of the marriage, saying it violated public policy in New York. The will left most of the estate to Leiby, with bequests to Richard Ranftle, other brothers and a goddaughter.

"New York's long-settled marriage recognition rule affords comity to out-of-state marriages" that are valid where they are made, the state Supreme Court's Appellate Division wrote.
Susan Somer, senior counsel in the case, told WNBC, "(Thursday's ruling) is a decision that helps put to rest the idea that out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples could be vulnerable to attack from private parties," she said. "Family members cannot come in and try to pretend there was no marriage and interfere with the private choices the deceased spouse, Mr. Ranftle, made about protecting and leaving his estate to Mr. Leiby."

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