Charlie Martin often helped out Jill Morris and her partner of 18 years, Joan Anderson, with maintenance chores. And so Morris turned to Martin—who had worked as an engineer, in webcasting, and as a music promoter, but never as a lawyer—for help with her will: He had the software needed to open the document her attorney had prepared; he accessed it and she updated what she planned to leave to friends in his presence. Months later, on June 7, 2016, the New Yorker succumbed to cancer at age 84, reports the New York Daily News. Anderson died of a stroke 12 days later. Now the revised will is being hotly contested by Anderson's daughter Emlie and the three charities who stand to receive millions—with those edits factoring into the battle. The New York Times explains the issue: a portion of the will bestows items and money on friends so long as they survived Morris by at least 30 days.
Anderson is mentioned in that article, which grants her items ranging from a $4 million NYC townhouse to what's in Morris's safe deposit box. But Anderson didn't make it past the 30 days. The will's standard residual clause awards what is left to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Doctors Without Borders, and Save the Children. They say they're the rightful heirs and a court agreed. Emlie is appealing that ruling, noting the survivorship clause wasn't applied to friends who appeared in other parts of the will and arguing the late revision of the will was a sloppy one. Further, she thinks the couple would be treated as common-law spouses were they heterosexual; a spouse can't be disinherited. She contends they never married because they feared the stigma of publicizing their sexuality. Read the full Times article for more on the will and the twist involving its executor. (Read more inheritance stories.)