Many years ago I was working on a case where an elderly fellow died, leaving his estate to his three children. The only problem was that his two biological children were stunned and amazed to learn their father had legally adopted his much younger gay lover, the third “child”.
I surmised that since same-sex marriage was decades away, this fellow gave his lover the protection afforded children in respect of their right to inherit from their parents’ estates.
Of course, as most of us know, adopted children are treated the same as biological children when it comes to estate and family law matters and accordingly, his companion was equally entitled to a share of the estate, as provided for in his will.
At the time I thought it strange and have never run into anything like it again, until I read the story of millionaire John Goodman, age 48 of Florida, who recently legally adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend, Heather Hutchins.
Why would Mr. Goodman adopt Ms. Hutchins instead of marrying her? Palm Beach pundits are guessing that Mr. Goodman wishes to protect his assets, which are held in a trust for the benefit of his children, because of a multi-million dollar lawsuit levelled against him for the 2010 car crash that resulted in the death of 23-year-old Scott Wilson. Mr. Goodman fled the scene of the crash leaving Scott Wilson to drown in a canal.
Goodman’s attorney said that his client adopted Ms. Hutchins so she could continue a battle he was engaged in with the trust company that he believed was mismanaging the children’s trust, worth several hundred million dollars. As an adult and adopted child Ms. Hutchins would stand-in for Mr. Goodman who might receive a jail sentence of up to 30 years.
The only problem is that no one is buying Goodman’s explanation, not even Judge Glen Kelley who will preside over Mr. Goodman’s upcoming criminal trial. Judge Kelley noted that with the adoption of Ms. Hutchins, Goodman could well get his hands on the trust funds, previously unavailable to him.
Palm Beach attorney John Jorgensen believes Mr. Goodman’s biological children could challenge the adoption. Jorgensen once represented Canadian Sylvia Rickard who sued her uncle after learning the 82-year-old had adopted his 72-year-old male companion, depriving Ms. Rickard of a $660,000 family trust. She was successful with her claim and eventually settled the matter out of court.
Critics of the adoption say Goodman has “basterdized” Florida’s adoption law and is committing a fraud upon the court. Time will tell.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang