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Lesbian widow defends her marriage against her deceased partners’ parents

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Sad story.

Tobits and Farley lived in Chicago and were married in Toronto in 2006. Two weeks after their wedding, Farley was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. The couple fought the disease together for four years until September 2010, when Farley passed away. She was 37. In their last few days together, Farley told Tobits she feared her parents, who had never respected her relationship with Tobits—and did not take part in their wedding celebration—would turn on Tobits after Farley’s death and do whatever they could to make sure that they, and not Tobits, would inherit Farley’s assets.

Shortly after Farley’s death, her parents filed a court action in Illinois probate court to take over the administration of her estate, telling the court that their daughter had “never married” and that they, and not Tobits, were her heirs. They also told Farley’s employer, a law firm, that they should receive their daughter’s death benefits under the firm’s profit-sharing plan, claiming that Farley had signed a form naming them her beneficiaries.

In January 2011, Farley’s employer filed an action in the federal district court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to determine whether Tobits or Farley’s parents should receive the benefits. In her response, filed Monday, Tobits argues that the designation form is invalid because Farley’s parents pressured her to sign it on her deathbed, less than 24 hours before she died, and because a married person cannot designate another person to receive benefits without the written permission of her spouse. Farley’s parents claim that Farley’s marriage to Tobits should not be recognized.

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