Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Testamentary Provisions v. Public Policy

Many of us want to leave money to family members in a way that encourages our values in the next generation, such as receiving an education, becoming self-sufficient, or participating in a spiritual life. However, Colorado courts will not enforce a provision in a Will or Trust that is deemed to violate public policy, such as requiring a beneficiary to divorce their spouse if they wish to receive a bequest.

Frank Mandelbaum, founder of the ID-verification firm Intellicheck, recently died with a very large fortune. His son, Robert Mandelbaum, is a gay Manhattan Criminal Court Judge. In Frank’s Will, he creates a $180,000 trust for his grandchildren, but Robert's 16-month old son, Cooper, may be excluded from those benefits unless Robert marries Cooper's biological mother. Although Frank knew his son was gay, he included a provision excluding "an adopted child of Robert, if adopted while Robert is a single person, or a biological child of Robert, if Robert shall not be married to the child's mother within six months of the child's birth." The provision will exclude Cooper if Robert remains married to his partner. His attorney Anne Bederka wrote that the Will provision was "tantamount to expecting him either to live in celibacy, or to engage in extramarital activity with another man, and is therefore contrary to public policy."

Robert is challenging the will because in order to meet the conditions set in the Will, he would have to enter into a sham marriage in violation of New York marriage-equality law. The Manhattan Surrogate's court has yet to approve a settlement.

See Alyssa Newcomb, Gay Man Told to Marry Woman or Son Would Lose Inheritance.