Manhattan Businessman’s Last Will And Testament: My Son Will Get Straight, Or My Grandkids Get Nothing

OdiousMandelbaumWhen Manhattan businessman Frank Mandelbaum died in 2007, he left behind a $180,000 trust for his grandchildren. There are now three Mandelbaum grandchildren, one of whom belongs to Frank's gay son, Robert, and his husband, Jonathan O'Donnell. But Frank Mandelbaum was apparently a terrible person, so in his will he left a proviso: The funds could be disbursed to Robert's kids only if Robert married their mother, "within six months of the child's birth."

It's not that Frank Mandelbaum was particularly attached to the mother of Robert's child. (At the time Frank wrote his will, Robert didn't have a child.) He just didn't like that his son was gay. Happily, Robert Mandelbaum is uniquely suited to fight his father's twisted will. He's a judge.

From the New York Post:

… [the] will prompted Robert Mandelbaum, a Manhattan Criminal Court Judge, to argue in a court battle over the estate that his longtime partner Jonathan O’Donnell is the only “mother” their 16-month-old son, Cooper, knows.

… The Manhattan Surrogate’s Court has yet to approve a settlement to ignore Frank Mandelbaum’s demand as discriminatory and against New York law.

The settlement is the only way to solve the dispute over Cooper, Robert Mandelbaum claims in court papers, because the will “imposes a general restraint on marriage by compelling Robert Mandelbaum . . . to enter into a sham marriage” — which he says violates state law supporting marriage equality.

Frank Mandelbaum's widow, a loveless old biddy named Ann Freeman, has testified in court papers that Robert's son, 18-month old son, Cooper, is undeserving of his inheritance because he's being raised by gay parents.


  1. borut says

    I can’t believe the guy is fighting to get his disgusting father’s money. I wouldn’t want anything from a pig like that. I would go spit on his grave and then pretend I never knew him.

  2. luminum says

    So the old man died a bitter, angry bigot? Good. It sounds like his wife will die the same way, based on her “testimony”.

  3. Mikey says

    I don’t think it’s as simple as that. His poor son deserves to be treated with the same respect as his cousins (same goes for any future children they might have).

  4. Mary says

    Making your grandkids suffer for something their father did/is that they had no control over? Where is the justice in this? Even from an anti-gay perspective it makes zero sense.

  5. Mark says

    I want to see Robert get the money, just so his mother has to live knowing that their bigotry will not be tolerated under the laws of the state of New York, of which I am a proud resident and gay parent!

  6. Jay says

    That stupid old bigoted couple don’t deserve grandchildren. But I am glad the will is being contested.

  7. says

    anyone ever read Henry James’ “The Heirness”?

    Catherine Sloper’s final decision in regards to her father’s wil would seem fitting for this situation….

  8. Oz in OK says

    How awful! I’ve never heard of this situation before… I wonder how often it actually happens. And yes, the will’s ridiculous stipulation *should* be fought.

  9. World's Greatest Dad says

    I don’t think the terms of the will should be contested, or contestable. The coercive terms of the will are a foul-hearted father’s final flip-off to his gay son, and are absolutely vile. But a will reflects the final wishes of the father, and the probate court should not interfere with the will any more than if Old Man Mandelbaum disinherited a mixed race grandchild. Leave the money. Walk away. Don’t look back. The grandchild will grow up better off for not having the old man in his life. Rejoice. Be happy.

    And $180,000? That’s kind of paltry to begin with. I thought the Mandelbaums had crepe money.

  10. anthony says

    I “assume” and hope Robert wins his case in court for his and his son.

    Then another possible twist: Roberts siblings “gift” their nephew the correct portion. Which I believe in this current tax season is “tax free”–till the end of Dec 2012. That of course if the siblings have a good relationship.

    It’s all about “grandpa and eventually grandma” turning in their grave for eternity.

  11. Randy says

    If the terms of the will are that he must marry the mother within six months, and only that, then the solution is quite simple.

    Marry the mother within six months. After a short period of time, the will will be executed and the funds distributed according. Once that happens, you file for divorce and get on with your life.

  12. Randy says

    Also, make sure the will is published on a website, and mail a copy to all of his dad’s friends and family members, with a letter stating that he disinherited his grandchildren to punish the son for being gay.

    That will totally rip his reputation with most people, which is exactly what he deserves. It will serve notice to any other parent that their children will make their bigotry known to everyone, and they might think twice about doing such a hateful thing.

  13. Randy says

    Lastly, make sure that advocates for “traditional marriage” know that this father would rather his son enter a sham marriage than enter a true one, and that this seems to be fine with all “traditional marriage” proponents.

    Ask them whether doing the father’s bidding will insure the institution of marriage forever more.

  14. BeckieSays says

    Sad. And gross. But it was his money.

    I wouldn’t want my will to be usurped, so to me, I’d just forget about the money. But the money isn’t for me, it’s for the kid, so I can see why someone would challenge it, it’s not done out of selfishness, it’s done for the kid.

    Still, that wasn’t what the money was intended for, so I don’t know. Must be nice to have problems centered around free money. I just wonder how much the lawyers are going to get, and if it’s worth the stress and heartache, being constantly reminded of what a turd my dad was. That kind of pain never really goes away, I don;t think that anybody that hasn’t experienced it can really appreciate what it’s like. It’s awful. It’s a wound that never really heals. I’m going to go cry now and try not to think about my own relativist and how hard they’ve made my life.

  15. says

    The religious right always says that we should not allow gay marriage because it punishes children unjustly by not giving them both a mother and a father. And yet here they are, punishing an heir because of something the heir (the grandson) has absolutely no control over.

    Also, all I can think of is this:

  16. He Who Laughs Last says

    If you really want to re-write Dad’s reputation, start drafting that tell-all memoir about incestuous, child sexual abuse, to be published upon Mom’s death.

  17. KP05 says

    Righty TP – “Don’t punish a child for the sins of his father.”

    Oh wait, we’re not talking abortion? Oh, oh, it’s about the gays?

    Well screw that little kid then. He gets nothing because his fathers are faggots.

    A-holes like Frank make me want to believe in hell.

  18. PAUL B. says

    And as his generation dies off…the replacements will be on our side. And…I’m sorry and I’m not rich but who would bother doing anything for this kind of money. It’s not like it’s going to change anyone’s life really. Three grandchildren…180K…that’s 60K each. The gay one’s son gets enough to buy a house in Biloxi, Missippi…maybe. Can’t wait!! Let’s move on and let the old fart burn in hell, OK?

  19. Recent grad says

    So I just took the NY Bar exam, and I’m fairly certain I learned that requiring marriage (or prohibiting it) as terms to collect under a will are necessarily void as against public policy. That means that provision will be thrown out.

  20. GregV says

    I know someone who has a potentially similar future situation. His fair-minded siblings and cousins have all said, don’t worry, no matter who is or is not willed anything, nobody else’s biases are going to divide us.
    Maybe this grandchild’s cousins are too young to make financial decisions, but if they are old enough and fair-minded at all, they could spare all these legal fees for this man and decide among themselves not to let a spiteful grandfather try to slice a wedge between family members.
    Once the cousins have their inheritence, it’s theirs to spend or share as they choose.

  21. simon says

    The article didn’t mention whether Robert inherited anything. Probably not. That part is not contestable. The old man has essentially disowned his son. At the time of the will, the grandson did not even exist. The old man just acted out of spite. It is sad.

  22. Prof Sancho Panza says

    I’m not an expert in testamentary law, but this seems like a long shot. For instance, wills commonly used to leave money only to the legitimate (born in wedlock) offspring, excluding illegitimate children, or to biological rather than adopted children, and the father’s requirement that his son marry a grandchild’s biological mother is just a variation on that. It’s also quite legal to disinherit a child who’s entered into an interracial marriage if that’s not to the parent’s liking, etc.: there’s no legal requirement that a will treat all eligible heirs equally or that inequality be justified. This isn’t a public accomodation question. Trying to get the will overturned on discrimination grounds seems unlikely.

  23. redball says

    this really hits home for me. i think my hopelessly homophobic father may try this same thing when he passes away.

    but my 2 sisters are really awesome people and i believe they would share the full amount with me equally 3 ways, no matter what my dad’s will tries to do.

    i know i would do that for them.

    my dad’s pathetic divisiveness thankfully has no effect on the bond my sisters and i share.

  24. johnosahon says

    why is he fighting to get money from his father who thinks the worst of him? If he was homeless or jobless i would understand, but a successful judge? Must be a republican, they like money too much, LOL.

  25. truthteller says

    It was the old man’s money. He earned it and can do whatever the hell he wants with it.

    Out of pride, I would never contest that will. I’d work my ass off to make sure my kid had all he needed in abundance. If the old man can do it, so can the son.

  26. Jon John says

    This is another way on how straight people try to control us……get an education, make your own money…take fighting lessons….learn how to use a gun….that’s what we have to do. Because they won’t let up.

  27. Jon John says

    This is another way on how straight people try to control us……get an education, make your own money…take fighting lessons….learn how to use a gun….that’s what we have to do. Because they won’t let up.

  28. TMTesq says

    From the legal perspective, I’d say he has a pretty good chance of prevailing. Let me start with the fact that the grandfather COULD have flatly disinherited his son, but instead tried to use his will and thus the law/probate courts in his anti-gay quest against his child. Thus, the courts should not enforce it and legitimate this type of bigotry.
    The law has never given testators carte blanche for dispositions of their estates, and there is a very long and voluminous legal history of courts tossing out provisions of wills that are counter to public policy. For example, no one can make a devise contingent on committing a crime, changing their religion, getting a divorce, or anything that violates a person’s fundamental rights.
    If the son is married to his partner, then the will would compel divorce, and since same-sex marriage is legal in NY, that provision is arguably counter to public policy. If he’s not married, it’d still be counter to public policy. Consider the counterfactual, where someone in NY includes a provision that his straight son needs to marry another man… no one would bat an eye at that being contested.

    Finally, to those who think it’s the grandfather’s money & so on, well, why should the grandchild be penalized for his bigotry? $180k is a tremendous amount of money for some people, and could guarantee an education for the child. That’s something to fight for imo.

  29. JohnAGJ says

    Personally, I’d forget about the money and my parents if I were this fellow. I’d do it mainly for the kids who don’t need to see the deep divisions such a court case may cause in the family. Although I have to imagine that this guy’s parents aren’t the only ones in that family with such bigotry and they are probably already divided. Eh, if he is going to pursue this I do hope he wins.

  30. dancobbb says

    $180,000.00 to be divided between three grandchildren? He wasn’t much of a NY business man, was he? That’s only 60K per grandchild. Embarrassing! Let it go, judge.
    Who needs that?

  31. ratbastard says

    180,000 bucks split by three = 60,000. I’d happily take it, but we aren’t exactly talking big bucks here.

    It’s inconceivable to me a grandfather would take out his anger with his son on his grandson.

  32. ratbastard says

    Some think old man Mandelbaum belongs in hell. I assume Mr. Mandelbaum was Jewish. Jewish people basically don’t believe in Hell or in any kind of eternal torment. They generally believe a kind and forgiving God, not a God that would send anyone to ‘Hell’.

    Some Christians and Muslims on the other hand are OBSESSED with death, the afterlife, Heaven, Hell and Satan, especially evangelical Protestants and Baptists, much less so among Catholics, who some ways are similar to Jews in being more concerned with the here and now. Don’t know what Orthodox Christians views are.

  33. Francis says

    Things like this should be inconceivable, but for me they most certainly aren’t. Extreme homophobes like this want to hurt gay people at every turn, in the worst possible ways, and this was it for Frank Mandelbaum. It’s as much pathetic as it is sad. Hopefully Robert wins the suit.

  34. SayTheTruth says

    And that is why in other countries inheritance can not be modified at will, unless you childless etc.
    But I get America point of view: dead people have more rights than gay people.

  35. revchicoucc says

    Robert is doing what any good father would do: fighting for his child. $60,000 may not be much (to some of us) now, but the child is only 16 months old. This fund if will managed could be a significant amount in 18 – 20 years.

    @TMTESQ, your points are well-taken. Robert, being a lawyer, even if not one who specializes in this area of law, may very well be addressing an area that needs clarification: can a will make inheritance conditional upon a person’s sexual orientation?

  36. james says

    You know, this case is also about the legal relationship married same-sex couples have to their children when only one of them is a biological parent.

    If Robert is Cooper’s biological father through a surrogate biological mother, and Jonathan is not in any way biologically related to Cooper, than what is Jonathan legally? Robert is arguing Jonathan is legally Cooper’s “mother,” that is, his other parent, because Robert and Jonathan are legally married.

    On the other hand, if Jonathan is Cooper’s biological father through a surrogate, then is Cooper legally Frank’s grandson?

    Whether or not the money is worth the fight, the legal questions are real. Does a man have to adopt his husband’s child to be the child’s other parent under the law?

    How does the law provide for a child born to an opposite-sex couple through a surrogate mother? The woman is not the biological mother of her husband’s child, yet, I would surmise, the law would recognize her as the legal mother of the child.

    Revulsion at Frank’s attitudes aside, there are legal questions here that need to be addressed as they might have ramifications for other same-sex married couples in NYS.

  37. Stack Dat Coin says

    No one has a ‘right’ to an inheritance, particularly when the decedent left specific (and LEGAL) instructions about the terms and conditions under which the money was to be distributed. Bigotry is not illegal, for better and for worse.

    The son is allowing his ego to get the better of his intellect. This is NOT worth fighting for, and would NOT result in good public policy, even if he were to prevail. Certainly the dignity of the son (and his family) should be worth more than $60,000.

    Move on. If nearly $1M can be raised via social media for an insulted bus monitor, ……..I’m just sayin’.

  38. Aiden Raccoon says

    I think that he will be able to get the money without the stipulation involved. The law will not allow him to marry a woman if it can be proved that it will become a sham marriage. There is no recourse for him because he has no possible way to legally get a valid marriage in this manner. A marriage is a contract between two people and it can be easily proven that neither of them are willing to honor the contract of marriage and are just in it to get the money. Therefore, the stipulation is void because it creates an impossible legal resolution.

  39. andrew says

    I think the $180,000.00 was the old control freaks money and it should be given out according to his stipulations, no matter how small minded we may think he was. A person’s will should be followed exactly as intended.

  40. Rob says

    It isn’t the pittance of money involved – it’s the hate in that will. That hate needs to be fought and vigourously so that no one will accept it. Hypothetical – waht if the sone waas in a straight biracial relationships and teh will said he had to marry a white woman for his son to inherit – there woudl be NO QUESTION that waas wrong.

    Let it be struck down if only so that satan can say to the old coot, “Oh by the way, the $60,000 did go to your gay grandson – It’s been matched by a equal grant to defend teh rights of children of gay parents with hate filled gradnparents. I woudl give to that. :)

  41. ThomT says

    The kid’s “share” of the inheritance is only $60K and quite likely, judge or not, Robert is going to spend a pretty hefty chunk of change trying to get a ruling in his favor. I say, tell Granny you don’t want or need the blood money, and let the other sibling(s) split it. Unless the siblings are as hate filled as mom and dad they will find a way to funnel Robert’s son his share – if not then I’d write off the entire family and get on with my life. While I realize that it’s probably more a matter of principle than the money itself there is never going to be a real winner in this type of battle. Mom & dad were filled with bigotry and hatred and it would be better for everyone involved to cut the ties and move on.