Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New York's Same Sex Couples Can Inherit Estate

New York recognized a same-sex couple's Canadian marriage in probate court with a decision filed February 3, 2009. Matter of the Estate of H. Kenneth Ranftle, File No. 4585-2008 (N.Y.L.J., Feb. 3, 2009. This is the first time that a New York surrogate court has recognized a same sex marriage contracted out of state according to Professor Leonard of NYU Law School. Leiby and Ranftle had been together over 20 years and Mr. Ranftle's relatives did not contest the will. The couple wed in Canada in June 2008. The court applied New York's marriage recognition law. Because Canada recognizes same-sex marriages, the marriage was deemed valid in New York, even though New York itself does not provide for same sex marriages. According to Professor Leonard, "Mr. Ranftle passed away on November 1, 2008. He was survived by his spouse and three siblings, two of whom are also gay, incidentally. According to Mr. Leiby, Mr. Ranftle was one of five brothers, four of whom were gay and all of whom were close to Leiby and Ranftle. Ranftle’s parents are both deceased. Due to the court’s recognition of his marriage, Ranftle’s will was able to go through probate quickly without any need to involve his surviving brothers in the proceeding."
The potential impact of the New York surrogate court's ruling is "huge," says Leonard. Maybe in New York, but here in Pennsylvania, there is no recognition of same sex marriages, regardless of where the marriage was formed.

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