In a decision out of Palm Beach County, field August 5, 2014, the Court considered whether a same sex spouse could be appointed to serve as a Personal Representative for his deceased husband. In Re Estate of Bangor involved Frank Bangor and W. Jason Simpson. The couple married in Delaware in 2013. Mr. Bangor died in 2014, in the parties’ home state of Pennsylvania. He named his spouse, Mr. Simpson, as the Personal Representative. Mr. Bangor owned property in Florida. Under Florida law, specifically Florida Statutes section 733.304, a non-resident of the state can serve as Personal Representative if they are a spouse, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece of the decedent, or someone related by lineal consanguinity to any such person. The issue in the case was whether or not Mr. Simpson would be considered Mr. Bangor’s spouse in the State of Florida, as same sex marriages are not legal under Florida statutes.
Utilizing the Equal Protection Clause and the recent holding of United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013), the Court held that Florida Statute §741.212 and Article I, Section 27 of the Florida Constitution were unconstitutional, as applied to Mr. Simpson, and would not be enforced against him, thereby giving him the right to serve as Personal Representative for Mr. Bangor’s estate, as his spouse. The Court held that the marriage laws “unnecessarily discriminate against this spouse who is recognized by other states as a spouse”. The Court further held that “same sex couples are entitled to respect, dignity and protection as any other spouse requesting to be a Personal Representative.”
While the Court did state that Florida Statutes 741.212 is unconstitutional “as applied” to the facts of this case, specifically, a probate case, the language used by the Court and other cases cited to be the Court offer glimmers of hope for the rights of same sex couples in Florida.
A link to the full opinion can be found here.
Photos in this blog are courtesy of: outsidethebeltway.com, i.telegraph.co.uk