Inheritance issues are not always cut and dried. In recent news, one woman who was slated to inherit a large amount of money recently tried to improve her claim by adopting her former husband.
The woman is one of several heirs to the Gore-Tex fortune and stands to inherit millions of dollars. The woman secretly adopted her former spouse in 2003 in an attempt to increase her share of inheritance. In New Jersey, the court makes the ultimate determination when there is a contested inheritance.
The court ruled that adoption was not a legal way to add to her inheritance. In this case, the inheritance was to be split between the family members with each of the five offspring and the grandchildren. The woman had only three children while her siblings, the other heirs, each had four. In order to increase her share of the inheritance and get shares equal to her siblings, the woman adopted her 65-year-old former husband.
When a trust is made there must be a specific intent designated for it. The courts must interpret what the intent was and make a ruling. In this case the court decided that the adoption was done specifically to foil the intention of the trust and therefore was not permissible. The woman will not be getting extra shares for her adopted ex-husband and son as she had hoped, and the trust stands as it was intended.
The case shows to what great lengths people will go to when money is involved. People in New Jersey and across the country must be careful to make their trust as specific as possible in order to prevent confusion or misinterpretation later. When creating a trust it is important to make specific intentions for heirs.
Source: Reuters, “Sorry Gore-Tex Heiress, You Can’t Adopt Your Husband,” Edward Tan, May 25, 2012