Tim and Keith Spent 20 Years Together But Their Marriage Meant Nothing When Keith Died


Tim (left) and Keith (right) married in July 2009 in Provincetown, MA after 18 years together. Sadly, in September 2012 Keith passed away unexpectedly and what happened to Tim thereafter is outlined below. This story was submitted to GMUSA by Tim and his words are featured here. His experience is yet another stunning and tragic example of why federal marriage equality is so important.

As sad as this story is, it is but one of many that plays out each year across America as married same-sex couples continue to face discrimination and oppression. While the USA continues to allow certain states to ignore the validity of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, and while the federal goverment continues to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which denies legally married gay couples federal marriage rights and benefits, we will continue to learn of these tragedies.

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In 2009 life was in a wonderful cadence. We relocated back to the USA from Europe: Keith had completed his MBA and my work with global medical missions were taking shape and making a difference.

So, that summer we married on the beach in the evening with our two labradors. We often said to each other, “the earth was made round so we can not see what is ahead of us.” Little did we know that life was about to take such a tragic turn.

Keith passed away suddenly in September 2012, in upstate NY while living with his parents recovering in the mountains from a recent stay in a rehabilitation center.

For the 20 + years we were together we spent time and money to assure that should something happen to either of us, we would be taken care of, that our families would not be able to challenge our commitment and our wishes: Wills, Health Care Proxies, Power of Attorneys, etc.

Unfortunately, because we were living in PA our marriage was not recognized and Keith’s family ignored his will, changed beneficiaries and took many of our belongings and possessions.

This is the reality of not having national recognition of marriage for all. Had we been a heterosexual married couple, this would never have happened and the courts would have intervened. Instead, I am forced to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees to get back what was mine and Keith’s wishes.

Keith’s family has ignored me after 20 years, therein ignoring our relationship, marriage and my existence.

Read Keith’s obituary here.

** If you have a marriage story that you would like to share, please send it via email to: GayMarriageUSA[at]gmail.com

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65 Responses to Tim and Keith Spent 20 Years Together But Their Marriage Meant Nothing When Keith Died

  1. Nic says:

    How does a family who is not named as executors/beneficiaries of a will get that will tossed aside? Plenty of people (LGBT or otherwise) choose to name someone other than a blood relative as executors/beneficiaries. So states just choose to disregard this for any such will? Or for wills where the person named is an LGBT partner? I’m just unclear on the legalise here; any clarification as to how this was done lawfully is appreciated.

    • GMUSA says:

      Nic – hopefully Tim will join the discussion here and maybe he will be able to explain the details.

    • Tim here, Keith Will and all our estate documents were with him, as I was working abroad. The documents were “lost” when I return to get them. The family filed a Legal Zoom will that did not need witnesses in PA. Which is likely a forgery. The death certificate put a PA address of where Keith was residing as per the family before I got back to the USA. The courts will not change the death certificate as they family lives in the rural county or Warren County New York, town of Chestertown. They are the big fish in the small pond.

      • Maria says:

        Tim,
        Did you have your legal documents prepared by an attorney? It doesn’t seem like they can just and create a new will and then suddenly take everything. Not to mention the person who stated that “OK they married in MA, lived in PA, but one died in NY which had Marriage Equality in place in 2011–so how the heck can this family take everything from the spouse regardless of where he resides? That’s what health care proxies, power of attorneys and wills with executors is suppose to protect. I hope he gets everything back and more!!” It does make a person think if the paperwork is not legal and binding then what is the purpose of it? This makes me so very sad that his family would have done this. The fact they acknowledged the relationship makes it even worse. I hope and pray that everything goes in your favor and they see that what they did was terribly wrong on so many levels. I am sure they would not do that to his sisters if the situation was similar.

      • Anonymous says:

        Do you know what lawyer did his original will. He should have a copy. He can also testify. After all he is an officer of the court.

      • bearb1960@yahoo.com says:

        Tim what should have been done to prevent this from happening was to have had his will copied if not more than one copy created by the lawyer so there would be more than one copy and or original for such a just in case situation as this.

      • Nic says:

        Thanks for the response, Tim. So Keith’s lawyer doesn’t have a copy of his will and other legal documents expressing his wishes? That doesn’t sound like great representation.

    • Johnny says:

      In the state of Virginia, no contract or legal document that even smells like same-sex marriage rights is deemed valid by the courts.

      • Erica says:

        That is not true. Insurance contracts that name beneficiaries cannot be challenged. Wills cannot be challenged UNLESS they exclude a legal spouse. You can file your health care proxy in a federal database that is valid.

    • JenniferT says:

      Because in PA, if there’s no legally recognized spouse, you wishes are pretty much worthless. Your stuff goes to the next blood relatives, and if none, to the state. PA blows when it comes to survivorship rights of ANY kind.

      • Nic says:

        So individuals (regardless of their LGBT status) are required to leave their estate to blood relatives, despite their wishes expressed in a will to do otherwise? Sorry, this just doesn’t sound legal to me, so I want to make sure I’m understanding you here.

    • storm says:

      laws only work if they are enforced at the appellate level. people have got to realize that the legal system is broken, not individual laws. make all appellate decisions published and no longer will people get swept under the rug.

    • Anonymous says:

      Because our marriages are not federally recognized and they are theoretically next of kin and again it just gives families another excuse to walk over the other partner no matter what the persons wishes were.

    • Tim, I’m so sorry for your loss. There are disturbing similarities here with the current case of Lon Watts & Jim Heath : http://www.gofundme.com/2rqx54 Evil relatives motivated by greed and hatred. It’s abominable. I hope that you get justice. Stay strong!

    • Tim Murphy says:

      Families often ignore living wills, powers of attorney, etc.. The fixation on the family (surely one of the most evil institutions on earth) tends to lead to all kinds of injustice. Another argument to try and dismantle that tradition.

  2. Caitlin says:

    Really really sad and utterly ridiculous that this can happen. How could his family be so cruel?

    • ScottyBob says:

      If they are anything like my mother, who shunned me 30 years ago because she is a Chrisitan, it’s easy for them to be cruel… in the name of their religion, fueled by hate and ignorance.

      • Susie says:

        Correction: She shunned you because she SAYS she is a Christian. Not that I’m religious, but supposedly a “true Christian” would never act that way. Christians are supposed to love everyone, especially those they see as “sinners”. Sad.

    • Daddy Bearby says:

      Catelin it’s that thing called greed most of the time as usual if they think they can get all his posessions and or monies then they will more than likely turn into vultures I have seen such a situation far too many times and since I am currently dealing with the estate left to me by my parent’s who died 23 day’s apart in 2012 the vulture’s of the family are still comming out from under their respective rock’s to this day and the estate is soon to be closed leaving me every thing in prepetuity as was listed in their wills .

  3. Anonymous says:

    It is called family greed. Blood ties outweigh other bonds but valid state certified marriage. The family could have left the couples possessions alone but they are greedy. Greed is overwhelming in some people, the desire for inherited property, money, is so very great that it is what keeps their hearts pumping. I’ve seen this in a dear friend of mine, the preoccupation of “What? You should be inheriting that house!” I don’t like how this goes. I saw and heard that from some one who was my best friend, some one I love very much, he said, “I only like people who own objects.”

  4. Lon Watts says:

    This is just Heart Breaking! The two get married and one passes and the family disregard the loved ones wishes and the court rules in their favor??
    This is Too much like my story only my Partner of 34 years, Took everything before he passed and put him in a nursing home to die, all alone..
    http://www.gofundme.com/2qrx54
    My Heart goes out to You!

    • Lon Watts says:

      I read the Obituary and glad to know his Partner was listed and aknowleged as I know, if my Partner passes before I take his sister to court, I will Not be mentioned..
      Just as I was not mentioned having POA for him when she filed for guardianship and won and took him from me..

  5. Noonie says:

    OK they married in MA, lived in PA, but one died in NY which had Marriage Equality in place in 2011–so how the heck can this family take everything from the spouse regardless of where he resides? Thats what health care proxies, power of attornies and wills with executors is suppose to protect. I hope he gets everything back and more!!

  6. This is sad. And so very wrong. While it may be small consolation, what goes around comes around..And these family members will suffer in the end. If I may tell the story of my mother. I have 3 sisters. All or lives she told us that strangers and everyone but her husband and children care more for her than we did. She now has dementia and is in a home being cared for by strangers and not her husband or children. Know that there are many who care for you and your situation and will continue to support you. (((Hugs)))

  7. If a minor can be emancipated from parents, can an adult be legally seen as not part of a greedy homophobic vengeful family? There should be a way to exclude these kind of ‘family’ members. Sort of like a divorce, I reckon. Then when a gay spouse dies, the ‘in-laws’ cant have shite.

  8. Jana Latham says:

    This hits home, when my brothers partner died suddenly from a massive heart attack at age 45. His (the deceased) mother and brother went to my brothers home and proceeded to to go through their belongings. My brother was a pacifist and let them do this. These were the same people that had disowned my brother-in-law many years before. I am not a pacifist and when I heard this came a little unglued, I just pray for karma to right the wrongs.

    • Similar as I was dealing with so much trauma, and Keith had been with them recovering, I had thought they would be the same neutral almost caring people as they had been for 20+ years.

  9. This is such a sad story and it makes me so angry. I hope that the laws will change and other same sex couples do not have to suffer this awful heartache and trauma. My good wishes to you.

  10. Jlfreed says:

    Folks, why do any of us live in states that do not recognize our marriages ? We, too, have choices – which I know may be difficult – but we can also be in much more control of our own destinies. My wife and I choose to live in a place that recognizes us as human beings. We moved to be here and we will move again if need be. And, yes, this has caused career changes and we miss some of our now geographically distant family, but we could not choose to live any other way.

    • DBRoot says:

      Good luck to you and your wife, but be careful. Even in a state that recognizes your marriage, anything can happen. All it takes is one prejudiced judge, attorney, court official, nurse, doctor or whatever to completely unravel what you have worked so hard to build and protect. Until DOMA is cut down and gay marriage is recognized on a federal level, this kind of crap will continue. The whole state by state thing is a joke.

      • Anonymous says:

        I so agree with you! If PRESIDENT OBAMA was a REAL champion of rights for us all, he wouldn’t side step this issue by asking states to pass the law, he would push to change the FEDERAL law, like Brown vs. The Board of Education, Roe vs. Wade or The Miranda Decision.

  11. BA says:

    My partner’s family hates my guts. Wasn’t even allowed in the hospital room when her dad was dying of cancer to see him before he passed. Her sister, grandmother and aunt did not even want me at the funeral. I went anyway. We live in NY and they live in PA but I can see a similar scenario happening and can totally believe the callousness of others towards gay and lesbian couples. My heart breaks for Tim. I hope you are successful in your lawsuits. So sorry for your loss.

  12. JenniferT says:

    I wish I could ease the pain for those of you who have such uncaring extended families. All I know for sure is that should any of my children choose to love a member of their own sex, I will welcome them as long as they treat my baby well. That would go without saying if they choose a hetero relationship as well. If the person in the relationship with my child genuinely loves and cares for my kid, they are my family as well, and get all the same headaches I give my kids. 🙂 I long for the day when ALL families are equally accepting.

  13. Kitty Cross says:

    Some are saying that it is family greed. Having had a cousin, which sadly died from AIDS many years ago, I was appalled at the exclusion of his partner of so many years by my cousin’s family. There was nothing to take that was in Patrick’s name, as before he died, they made certain all things of worth were in his partners name. Sad, but my cousin knew what his family would do. They excluded his partner from anything that had to do with my cousin’s funeral, even going so far as to exclude him from the obituary. They wanted nothing that my cousin and he had acquired the many years that were together, they simply did not understand. Many people in response to what they cannot understand strike out in fear, and this is what my cousin’s family had done. Timothy, my heart breaks for you, that you lost someone you loved so dearly and passionately, and were then dismissed by his family. I am so sorry for those to afraid to understand the bonds of love, regardless of who for. My prayers and thoughts are with you.

  14. mary g says:

    well said jennifer t both my girls are gay and i love them and the girls they are with are my family they are my daughters also i wish the law would be the same for everyone this is just crazy stuff i am soooo sorry for your loss tim i really hope things work out for you in the long run much love and good will headed your way

  15. cynthia campanale says:

    I think greed, hatred and bigotry should not have any place in this world. But sadly it does, I have heard stories of siblings fighting each other for the material possessions of the parents while they are not even buried yet. It comes down to trusting in-laws who may hide their hatred for the partner in their child’s life. I feel that as long as DOMA acts are allowed by the Federal government, same sex marriages must live in a state that recognizes the marriage in order to safeguard all they have worked for and desired to be left for their life partner. One cannot put themselves at the Mercy of those who have none. This will not be tolerated until the government gives same sex couples the same protections under the law in every state. Until that happens reside only in the states that protect you and your possessions for in too many cases greed comes into play and the opportunity to reduce the life partner to a spectator . Karma takes a long time to come around but when Karma does it gives back what was done ten-fold.

  16. Anonymous says:

    What’s most disturbing to me is that Keith’s family showed him so little respect by completely ignoring his wishes (as stated in his will). If that’s not the definition of greed, I don’t know what is. I’m sure Keith would be very ashamed of them right now. Truly heartbreaking! My sincerest condolences for all you have been through.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I can’t believe the sorrow, anger, pain, frustration, and sheer agony people are willing to make others suffer. My partner and I have been together for over 16 years, and enjoy healthy, supportive relationships with each each others immediate families.

    We’ve worked hard, and have been fortunate to achieve a level of financial freedom few enjoy. While I can’t imagine either of our families trying to steal our joint belongings, I’m not foolish enough to underestimate the influence of greed, over otherwise decent people. In the end, it’s not about money, it’s about respect – and I’ll spend every penny we have earned in order to protect the integrity of our love, and the respect we share for one another.

    Stories, such as Tim’s, anger me beyond explanation! It’s time we gay Americans enjoy the same respect and equality as our heterosexual counterparts!

  18. Rie says:

    Have you tried taking them to court?

  19. t_veteran says:

    Is it wrong that I have the urge to harass these people(the family of the deceased) on the internet? This is despicable!

  20. Tim: This is a horrifying story. It’s appalling that you have to spend the legal fees to get what should already be legally and morally yours–while dealing with the loss of the most important person in your life. I’d be beside myself.

    Random and useless questions, because my mind turns into that of a litigator:
    1) Does the family have a lawyer, and, if so, have they been made aware of this: http://www.padisciplinaryboard.org/documents/RulesOfProfessionalConduct.pdf
    Specifically, rule 3.4. If the attorney has any inklings or suspicions that the will is a forgery, he is ethically obligated to disclose them to you.

    2) Is there some way to appeal the ‘place of death’ to the NY State Supreme Court or the Penn Supreme Court? Given that it’s forgery, it might be time to find a sympathetic prosecutor to investigate them pro bono.

    Deepest sympathies for your loss.

  21. Cheryle Gardiner says:

    My friends, this has been going on for years. When I worked for hospice in the early days of AIDS, there were many, many instances of parents taking everything from long-time partners despite their child’s commitment to that partner and/or his wishes. I knew people with AIDS who were quite literally put out into the streets when the parents came in and took possession of the living quarters and everything there, regardless of to whom it belonged.

    These people do not qualify as parents, Christians, and are – IMO – barely recognizable as human. I am a Christian. I did not understand the nature of homosexuality. Yet when my son came out to me I knew that I would move heaven and earth to assure him the same unconditional love and support that I afforded his brothers.

    Do not give up the fight for equality. It’s hard and it can be discouraging, but if we fail to push forward we will continue to hear these horror stories. I wish only justice for all of you, and send you the warmest wishes that a blog can hold. I may only be one old woman, but I stand strongly beside you.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I’m so very sorry Tim. I lost my partner of 12 years in March 2012. He had HIV for 32 years and Hep B and finally lost his battle with pneumonia due to his liver was failing. I never had the issues you did with my partner’s family wanting anything but what did hurt was that only one sister sent flowers to the funeral and none of them attended although they all lived in Florida and we lived in Ohio. I never understood that they acted as they loved both of us, but when times got tough they stopped calling, never sent cards for his birthday or Christmas, and not one of them even offered to help me with any of the funeral expenses. I didn’t even try for social security death benefit because I already knew I would be denied which is a joke anyways. That’s all fine because I celebrated his life with a beautiful funeral on my own and he had life insurance with me as beneficiary. It was suggested to me that we have separate headstones by the funeral planners, but I insisted both our names be on the same grave marker and they complied. We are the first gay couple to be side by side to be buried in that graveyard. It’s very wrong what your partner’s family did and they have to live with it and not you. What you have more than any material possessions is years of love and memories, and even though you were cheated, no one can take that away. We do seriously need a change in our legal system because it’s not equal and fair.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Is that happen in USA ? the land of freedom and equality ? whom call that country thouse words when all I hear,experience and read abbout USA for the past 40 years is just a fight for the right ,the black people, when not them than the native indians ,when not them the souht american ,when not them the marrige betwen a colored and a wite ,when not that the gay marriage ……and I just mention few litle thinks ……………………….it seems to be a jocke whats happening in that beautifol country ………

  24. Matt says:

    So very sad. This should serve as a big wakeup call for all of us who just assume everthing will go the way we wish after death. Good luck Tim and I wish you the best!

  25. James says:

    Michigan has the same kind of law: I don’t remember the exact wording but it says something like “Anything that even resembles a civil union or marriage is null and void”. The bitches covered every possibility in their campaign of hurting gay people.

  26. Jeff Manus says:

    Tim, my heart goes out to you. I lost my partner in a pedestrian accident two years ago. We weren’t married, but had been together for nine years. The hospital staff was exceedingly kind, and treated me with the respect my position deserved. Afterwards his family tore through what was left of our life together; so, like you there was a double loss, the loss of David and the loss of respect for my position. But if I may offer a new slant here… They can take away the “things”, they can ignore your rightful position, but the one thing they can NEVER do is take away what the two of you had together. Keith will ALWAYS be yours, as David will always be mine, no law, no family, no force on this Earth will ever change that…. My thoughts are with you….

  27. Anonymous says:

    Well, all I can tell you is. I’m married to my wife and we live in Germany, I would love to go back the US and buy a home for us to retire, but it sounds like its so dangerous, so us, So I will make sure the end of my life and wishes are here in Germany, where they respect peoples wishes. LBGT, I’m so sorry for what happened to this sweet men, There’s a special place in Hell for the family who took everything.
    Lois & Andrea

  28. Lisa M Rounds says:

    First of all…Tim, I’m so sorry for your loss. Please know you’ll be in my thoughts, sending you support and continued strength.

    I haven’t read through the entire thread, but I wonder, is there something as a community we can do more of to help change this federal law? So many heterosexual couples divorce, and nothing is ever said about it ruining the sanctity of marriage. Same-sex couples are together for 20+ years and somehow they are bad for marriage? Tim, please, how can we help?

    Lisa

  29. T.L. Mullins says:

    I would never live in a state that does not have same sex marriage on the books and this sad story is the reason why. I realize that until DOMA goes away (and further progress is made for equality) there are still state issues and Federal issues, that said it is a sad commentary that one is forced to pick and choose which states are safe to live in as a same sex couple. It’s really no different than when there were laws against interracial couples marrying…..be an interracial couple in Virginia etc. (prior to 1967) and you would be arrested and serve jail time….live in a safe state that has no inane laws against interracial couples in 1967 and you are fine. My condolences to Tim.

  30. lightweaverapril says:

    This is exactly what I was trying to tell a former friend. She kept claiming there were all sorts of ways to get the same rights while keeping marriage “sacred”, and wouldn’t listen when I told her of stories like his. I hope everything works out. Everyone deserves equal rights, no matter what the psuedo-religious claim.

  31. Kathy Stuart says:

    While I have no doubt that bigotry was at the heart of this atrocious incident this could have as easily happened to any couple, gay, straight, married or not. This people violated the law by ignoring/changing binding legal documents.

    And where the hell is the attorney that did your estate work? If he/she has not stepped up by now to take your part then demand your money back.

  32. Sorry for the lost uts sad try to keep your head up we reach our rip

  33. Brenda-ohio says:

    I know it shouldnt have to be done this way , but it is what it is at this point, so I am wondering for all you who are in such relationships, if you could sign a paper and exchange a dollar bill. The paper stating that you purchased all the others belongings and assets. If you were a creditor couldn’t you also come take from the estate after one passed? Maybe you could play dirty too and claim back rent or some crap that will get your belongings back to you. Seems to me there should be more than one way to get around such things as this happening. IDK I am no expert, just seems if there are loopholes for everything else there should be some in these instances too. Sorry about your losses and how this must have affected your life.

  34. This upsets me but doesn’t discourage me since there are too many questions left unanswered, not the least of which is why only one copy of the will existed, and why the will wasn’t filed as a court document when it was made out. I agree with Brenda-Ohio when she suggests an instrument of sale, but I’d make it for $1,000.00 and there are two notarized instruments naming the other partners ownership. The survivor destroys the instrument of the one who has passed.

  35. Anonymous says:

    this makes me so sad, i am in a same sex relationship and have informed all family that my possessions,wealth etc will be passed to my partner. Having a cousin as a lawyer has also helped. If your woried, have a civil union with your partner. That entitles you to the same rights as a married couple:-)This makes

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