Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Brownstone and the Bitter Fight to Inherit It

Bill Cornwell and Tom Doyle lived in a brownstone in the West Village for over five decades. They were artists, neighborhood fixtures and committed partners. Their enduring love never seemed to them to need codification — not to mention that for most of their relationship, gay marriage was illegal.

Mr. Cornwell died two years ago at age 88. Now, his will, in which he bequeathed the small apartment building to Mr. Doyle, is in dispute, leaving his partner with no clear claim to his home of 55 years. The property, on Horatio Street, is an extremely valuable asset, and several of Mr. Cornwell’s nieces and nephews have claimed it as their inheritance, rejecting the notion that their uncle wanted it to go to Mr. Doyle. They put the building up for sale, and it is now under contract — for over $7 million.

“I’m not so concerned about the money, I’m more concerned about a roof over my head for the rest of my life, and I wouldn’t have to be in a nursing home,” Mr. Doyle, 85, said, as he sat outside the cluttered one-bedroom apartment he shared with Mr. Cornwell. “As long as I am here, I have all the familiar surroundings. It’s almost as if Bill is still here.”

The dispute has now shifted to court.

Mr. Cornwell set down his final wishes about a decade ago. All his possessions, including the three-story, four-unit building of which he was the sole titleholder, should go to his longtime partner, the will stipulated. But the document’s signing was witnessed by only one person, not two, as required in New York State, making it legally invalid. Mr. Doyle attributed the error to a simple oversight, perhaps because of both men’s advanced age.

Without a valid will, the law requires that all of Mr. Cornwell’s assets go to his next of kin, two nieces and two nephews. Carole DeMaio, one of the nieces, said her uncle never took the necessary steps to make sure everything went to Mr. Doyle, including not marrying him, because he did not want to.

“He had 50 years to put Tom’s name on any of these papers,” Ms. DeMaio said. “The will was never a valid will.” Ms. DeMaio suggested that perhaps the two men were just “friends” or “great companions.”

Full Article and Source:
A Brownstone and the Bitter Fight to Inherit it


Betty said...

This is easy. The nieces/nephews should pay attention to their uncle's history and let Tom Doyle live in the brownstone for the remainder of his life. Then, they could inherit the brownstone they lust for.

Rachel said...

I agree. These fights over money and property are opportunities for lawyers to bill, bill, bill. Until there's nothing left to fight over.

Fred said...

Goodness, what is wrong with people? Tom Doyle should have the Brownstone and the nieces and nephews should get a job.