Gay Parents | Law - Gay, LGBT | New York

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.

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  1. That "loveless old biddy" line is hateful and unnecessary.

    Posted by: anonymous | Aug 19, 2012 3:33:08 PM

  2. 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?

    Posted by: PAUL B. | Aug 19, 2012 3:46:36 PM

  3. 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.

    Posted by: Recent grad | Aug 19, 2012 3:47:25 PM

  4. 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.

    Posted by: GregV | Aug 19, 2012 3:57:29 PM

  5. 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.

    Posted by: simon | Aug 19, 2012 4:04:49 PM

  6. 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.

    Posted by: Prof Sancho Panza | Aug 19, 2012 4:22:10 PM

  7. 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.

    Posted by: redball | Aug 19, 2012 4:39:03 PM

  8. 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.

    Posted by: johnosahon | Aug 19, 2012 4:46:33 PM

  9. 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.

    Posted by: truthteller | Aug 19, 2012 4:48:31 PM

  10. $180,000? For all of his grandchildren?

    $60,000 each?

    Not much of a businessman then.

    Posted by: JoshG | Aug 19, 2012 5:01:57 PM

  11. 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.

    Posted by: Jon John | Aug 19, 2012 5:58:12 PM

  12. 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.

    Posted by: Jon John | Aug 19, 2012 5:58:13 PM

  13. 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.

    Posted by: TMTesq | Aug 19, 2012 6:24:26 PM

  14. 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.

    Posted by: JohnAGJ | Aug 19, 2012 6:43:25 PM

  15. $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?

    Posted by: dancobbb | Aug 19, 2012 7:37:04 PM

  16. 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.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Aug 19, 2012 9:48:28 PM

  17. 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.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Aug 19, 2012 9:58:15 PM

  18. 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.

    Posted by: Francis | Aug 19, 2012 10:04:38 PM

  19. 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.

    Posted by: SayTheTruth | Aug 19, 2012 10:12:29 PM

  20. I guess Thanksgiving dinner at grandma's house is out of the question.

    Posted by: andrew | Aug 20, 2012 12:17:57 AM

  21. 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?

    Posted by: revchicoucc | Aug 20, 2012 12:50:35 AM

  22. 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.

    Posted by: james | Aug 20, 2012 1:11:36 AM

  23. 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'.

    Posted by: Stack Dat Coin | Aug 20, 2012 1:48:30 AM

  24. 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.

    Posted by: Aiden Raccoon | Aug 20, 2012 2:04:56 AM

  25. 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.

    Posted by: andrew | Aug 20, 2012 3:25:59 AM

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