When a person creates a trust to distribute assets after their death, it is often with the intention to share their wealth with family members. In some cases, the amount of money being transferred to heirs is significant, a fact that can lead people to take creative actions to get an even larger share of a trust. In one recent case that may be of interest to readers in Texas, one of the heirs to a billion-dollar estate secretly adopted her ex-husband in an attempt to increase her children's share of the family trust.
When the creator of Gore-Tex developed an estate plan, he and his wife apparently intended that their grandchildren would share in the division of 26,500 shares of stock in their company. However, one of their daughters began to think that her children would not receive their fair share as beneficiaries because she had fewer children than her siblings. She had three kids while her other siblings each had four.
In an attempt to level the playing field for her children, the daughter adopted her ex-husband, who is also the father of her children. This was intended to make each of her children receive not only their share, but a portion of the amount expected to be awarded to their father.
The ex-husband, however, decided to keep the share of stocks that he received due to his new status as a "grandchild" of the creators of Gore-Tex. Not surprisingly, the other family members objected to this plan, leading the family to a lengthy court battle. In the end, the court ruled that the ex-husband was not a legitimate beneficiary of the estate, because his secret adoption actually ran counter to the intentions of the trust creators, and he did not inherit a share of the highly valuable stock.
Source: Reuters, "Court: Gore-Tex heiress can't adopt ex-husband," Tom Hals, May 23, 2012