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Court Decides Ownership of Property Where Couple was Married Twice


This case is being heard in the Special Term of the Suffolk County Supreme Court. The case deals with the will of Gladys Guernsey. The plaintiff in the case is the executor of the last will and testament of Gladys Guernsey, Patrick Beary. The defendants in the case are Leach C. Hoffman and James L. Guernsey. The judge overseeing the case is John P. Cohalan Jr.


A New York Probate Lawyer said the plaintiff is seeking a judgment under Article 15 of the Real Property Actions and Proceeding Law. He argues that the estate of the decedent, Gladys Guernsey is the owner of three different parcels of real estate located in Lindenhurst, in Suffolk County, New York. The original testatrix in the case passed away on the 11th of July after beginning this action. Patrick Beary was named as executor and is substituted to complete the action.

Defendant’s Arguments

The defendants offer five affirmative defenses as well as three counterclaims. James Gurensey also has a cross complaint filed against the co-defendant.

The affirmative defenses include: failure to state cause of action, collateral estoppel based on the divorce of the decedent and her late husband Bernard S. Guernsey, insufficiency of parties because one of the tenants of the parcels was not named in the action, the marriage between the couple was not valid, because the marriage was invalid the tenants held the properties as tenants in common and not as tenants entirety. Manhattan Probate Lawyers said this final argument is also the basis for the first counterclaim which demands that the properties be partitioned. There is a second counterclaim for half of the money that was received by the decedent from tenants of the premises. The third counterclaim states that Gladys acquired possession of some of Bernard’s personal property that was valued at $10,000 and she refused to pay or deliver the possessions to his successors.

Court Discussion and Verdict

The court must look at the life of Bernard in this particular case. He was married several different times in several different states. His first marriage was to Mary Catherine and took place in Suffolk County. The couple had one son together, James. He divorced Catherine in Nevada and then remarried her a few years later in Maryland. Long Island Probate Lawyers said the couple divorced again a few years later in Georgia. During this separation an agreement for the transfer of certain property, this did not include the premises in this case, to Catherine. Bernard also made monthly payments to Catherine for support of James.

Bernard later married Gladys in the year 1949 in Suffolk County. While they were married the parcels in question were acquired. The parcels were in both their names. Gladys and Bernard divorced in 1964, but Gladys was not a resident of Florida and was not served with divorce papers.

The main question in this case is if Catherine and Bernard were still legally married, then the property in question would be considered to be vested to Gladys and Bernard as tenants in common. The other question is in regard to the will of Bernard, which did not mention Catherine or Gladys and James named himself as the sole survivor even though both were very much alive.

After reviewing all of the facts of the case the court grants the relief of the complaint and the affirmative defenses are stricken. The counterclaims made by James are dismissed.

There are many issues that may arise in a probate case and this is why it is important to have a lawyer on your side. Contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates to set up a free consultation to discuss your case, whether it involves a will, probate issue or estate administration. Our offices are located throughout New York City.

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