The Story Of Herb And Jess

This is the story of Herb and Jess, two soldiers who both served in World War II.  While they didn’t meet during the war, soon after returning home, they met each other at a barbeque in Long Beach celebrating the end of the war.

Herb and Jess instantly became an item; within a few short months they had moved in together and decided to spend their lives together.  They became family for one another; Herb was an only child whose parents had long-since passed away.  Jess, on the other hand had previously been married and had a now-grown daughter, but she lived out of state.  Although Jess and his daughter were not close, they did own property together; the two of them owned and managed a few apartment buildings and houses.

As a hobby, Jess bought and restored old cars.  While Herb wasn’t fond of the hobby himself, he supported Jess in doing what he loved to do, often spending weekend days working together making the cars run like new.  Another hobby of Jess’s that Herb participated in was antiquing.  Similarly to Jess’s love of restoring cars, he also loved to buy and restore mid-century modern antique furniture and made a pretty penny doing so.  For decades Herb and Jess scoured flea markets, garage sales and antiques markets, buying the finest mid-century modern pieces they could find.  Their home was furnished with it, and they had many pieces in storage waiting to be repaired and shined up for sale.

Jess was eleven years older than Herb, so, because of this fact – in addition that he wanted Herb to be taken care of when he was gone – Jess decided one day to get an estate plan prepared for him and Herb.

This story took place several years ago when being gay wasn’t as commonplace or as widely accepted, and the attorney that Jess chose was a straight man.  Jess was an older man at this point, and when he spoke to his attorney about Herb, he felt the attorney was judging him for his sexual orientation.  Jess was not comfortable divulging any further specifics to his attorney; he simply chose to call Herb his “roommate.”  The attorney then prepared an estate plan for Jess, one which made certain provisions for his “roommate.”

Then the situation that no one ever thinks is going to happen happened: Jess died.  Jess’s daughter received notification that her father had died, and the daughter immediately came to Jess and Herb’s residence, demanding that that Herb vacate the premises.  She brought a moving truck with her, cleaned out all of the items in the home, and took them with her.

Not knowing what else to do, Herb headed to Jess’s attorney.  The attorney told Herb, “You were roommates and nothing more, so Jess’s daughter has rights to all of this.”  Not only did Jess’s daughter take the cars and antiques that Jess had specifically stated were left for Herb, but she continued to hound Herb for the furniture that had been in storage.  Herb was left with nothing but a stripped-down residence and no money.  None of the things that were supposedly left to him were his any longer.

Then, in perhaps the cruelest turn of fate of all, Herb, who was deeply morning the loss of his life partner was sued by Jess’s daughter, who was now represented by Jess’s previous lawyer.  Herb was forced to go to court – even though he was the one who was in the right – and Jess’s attorney was the one who fought Herb in court.  Herb incurred immense legal fees and court costs and never got back all of the cherished items that he and Jess had purchased during their life together.  He was never made whole for everything the daughter had taken.

The point is this: if Jess and Herb been working with an estate-planning attorney whom they trusted and whom was on their side, that attorney would have created an estate plan that protected Herb as who he was for Jess: the love of his life and his life partner.  If that same attorney who was on their side had been consulted when the estranged daughter showed up, that attorney would have said, “Change the locks, and do not let her in the residence until this is resolved.”  This is a cautionary tale about how essential it is to feel one-hundred percent comfortable with the estate-planning attorney you choose – and what the possible consequences are for not doing so.  Especially as a member of the LGBT community, you must have an attorney who embraces your lifestyle and understands your unique needs.

NOTE:

The stories, all names, characters and incidents portrayed or appearing on this website are fictitious.  No identification with actual persons, living or dead, or any similarity to any places, buildings, institutions or actual events is intended or should be inferred.  Any resemblance to the aforementioned is purely coincidental.