Report: Elderly Gay Widower May Lose NYC Home Because He Wasn't Legally Married
A new report from the New York Times finds that an elderly widower could lose his West Village home, where he's lived for 55 years, because he was not legally married to his partner.
After passing away at the age of 88 two years ago, Bill Cornwell bequeathed a small brownstone apartment to his partner Tom Doyle. But Doyle is currently in dispute over the home because they were never legally married and Cornwell's will wasn't properly witnessed. Doyle, 85, is battling several nieces and nephews in court over the apartment. They claim their uncle did not want the apartment, which is located on Horatio Street, to go to Cornwell.
According to The Times, the apartment is "an extremely valuable asset" and adds that the nieces and nephews fighting for the home are putting it 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," Doyle told The Times. "As long as I am here, I have all the familiar surroundings. It's almost as if Bill is still here."
Doyle and Cronwell lived together for more than five decades but never tied the knot as same-sex marriage was not legalized for most of their relationship. By the time marriage equality was made legal the quiet couple, both artists, bought two wedding rings but never made marriage official.
Doyle told The Times going to City Hall to get married "felt like a strain to the couple" because Cornwell had heart problems. "It also felt unnecessary," the newspaper writes.
Cornwell finalized his will about a decade ago but only had one person witness the document's signing. New York State law requires that two people witness a will's signing, making Cornwell's final wishes legally invalid.
"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," The Times writes. "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."
DeMaio told the newspaper: "He had 50 years to put Tom's name on any of these papers. The will was never a valid will." She then suggested the men were just "friends" or "great companions."
Doyle sued the nieces and nephews in Surrogate's Court in Manhattan, asserting his claim to the apartment.
Read the New York Times' full story by clicking here.