Last week my wife and I were watching the news. The story came on of a wealthy 48 year-old man (Mr. Goodman) in Florida who was adopting his 42 year-old girlfriend (Ms. Hutchins). What an odd headline, right?
Believe it or not, there are actually circumstances were such an action would be a sound legal strategy.
In his case, Mr. Goodman is facing civil suit over the tragic death of another man, Mr. Wilson. The court had ruled that a trust, established for Mr. Goodman’s two children, could not be included in calculating his financial worth if the jury were to award damages. This is likely because once a trust is established, the money, property, or res, is no longer owned by the individual directly. By adopting Ms. Hutchins, he likely assures control over 1/3 of the trust.
So What is the Risk?
Well most obviously the risk of the relationship ending must be weighed. Under common law, any child (or adult for that matter), is legally entitled to all the rights and privileges as if they were a blood child of the adopting parent. This is not an act that can be undone.
How Would an Adult Adoption Case Rule Out in Utah?
It would be a very different story. Utah law prohibits persons who are cohabitating but not legally married. Therefore, this would likely not be allowed. For the same reason, gay or lesbian couples’ (or any other couples’) estate plans would likely fail if they were based on adoption statutes. These estate plans, however, would be cured with anything from a simple will to a complex trust instrument.
Minus the threat of losing your assets to something akin to a jury or court action, adult adoption is probably not the best estate plan option.
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