Relatives Of Deceased Gay Man Seek To Evict His Partner Of 55 Years

An elderly man may lose the home he shared with his partner of 55 years because they were not legally married. Tom Doyle lived with his partner, Bill Cornwell, in a three-story West Village brownstone in New York for decades but upon Cornwell’s death, his relatives are contesting his will, reports The New York Times.

Doyle, 85, faced the death of his partner in 2014. He now faces a legal battle with Cornwell’s nieces and nephews, who claim that because there was only one signature on the will (and not two as is legally required) it is invalid and that they’re therefore entitled to the home now worth $7 million.

So legally – despite Cornwell outlining that he wanted everything to go to Doyle – the home is supposed to go to the next of kin. And because the men never legally married, that would appear to rule out Doyle.

“We were talking about getting married,” Doyle said. “Bill even sent away for two rings. But we’d have to make two trips, one for the license and one for the ceremony, and we were both north of 85. And after a lifetime together, marriage doesn’t mean that much.”

But now Cornwell’s family is questioning the nature of the men’s relationship.

Carole DeMaio, Cornwell’s niece, is claiming the two were never a couple and that instead they were “friends” or “great companions”.

“He had 50 years to put Tom’s name on any of these papers,” she said. “The will was never a valid will.”

However, Doyle’s lawyer, Alan Schwartz, is arguing that the couple were actually in a common law marriage. Such partnerships were recognized in Pennsylvania until 2005 and coincidentally the men traveled to the state in 1991, where they often vacationed, to adopt a dog.

“New York Courts will recognize common law marriages if they would be recognized in a state where a couple visited, even if the visit was brief,” Schwartz said.

It’s interesting to note that Cornwell’s relatives have offered a compromise: Doyle can continue living in the home for five years for $10 in rent. It would seem they don’t expect Doyle to live longer than that.

But he has refused their offer.
“I’m not so concerned about the money,” he said. “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. As long as I am here, I have all the familiar surroundings. It’s almost as if Bill is still here.”