Allow Gay Man’s Son Access to Grandfather’s Inheritance

Target: New York County Surrogate’s Court, Probate Dept.

Goal: Ensure that gay man Robert Mandelbaum’s 16-month-old son receive a share of the trust set aside by his grandfather in his will, despite stipulations in the will insisting that Robert be married to a woman for the inheritance to be passed on.

Robert Mandelbaum’s father, a successful Manhattan businessman by the name of Frank Mandelbaum, died in 2007, leaving behind a will which included an $180,000 trust set aside for his grandchildren. However, the will also included an edict which would make it impossible for any of Robert’s children to be included in the pot unless Robert was married to the mother of his child within six months of the child’s birth. For Robert, who is gay, this is a requirement which he could not bear to fill. Shortly following the birth of his son Cooper through a surrogate, Robert did get married, but it was to his long-time partner Jonathan Odell rather than their child’s biological mother. Robert, who is a judge in Manhattan Criminal Court, is now arguing in court that this marriage entitles Cooper to a share of the funds, since Jonathan is the only “mother” that 16-month-old Cooper has ever known.

Frank Mandelbaum was clearly aware when he wrote the will that Robert was gay, given that his partner Jonathan had accompanied him at many family gatherings. It is fairly clear from the edict in his will  that he disapproved, and through the edict meant to induce Robert into marrying a woman. Insisting that a gay man marry a woman is tantamount to demanding he either live in celibacy or engage in extramarital affairs all his life.

New York anti-discrimination laws, which cover discrimination against LGBTQ people, should ensure that the will’s dictate be ignored and Cooper be rewarded a share of the inheritance designated for him and Frank’s other grandchildren. Write to the New York County Surrogate’s Court, where Robert’s case is being considered, to ensure that it is.


Dear Probate Dept. of the New York County Surrogate’s Court,

I am writing to encourage the court to ignore the dictate in the late Frank Mandelbaum’s will which requires his son Robert be married to the mother of his child within 6 months of the child’s birth for that child to partake of a share in the trust fund set up for Franks’ grandchildren. Robert is married, not to a woman, but to Jonathan O’Donnell, a marriage which is legal and binding under New York law. This marriage occurred not long after the birth of their son Cooper via a surrogate, which Robert argues should designate Cooper eligible to receive a share of the trust, since Jonathan is the only “mother” that he has ever known. To require Robert be married to a woman for his child to receive a share of the inheritance is clearly an act of discrimination that runs contrary to public policy, since it’s fairly clear that Frank was aware when writing the will that his son was gay.

I support Robert Mandelbaum’s appeal, and I believe that Cooper is just as entitled to a share of his grandfather’s trust as any one of his cousins. As the court considers this case, I hope you will take into careful account state policies that promote LGBTQ equality. I trust that the court’s decision in this matter will be fair and just.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Ken_Mayer via Flickr

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