Two weeks ago, John Goodman was found guilty of DUI, manslaughter and vehicular homicide in the USA.
The charges related to an incident that occurred on 10 February 2010 when Mr Goodman, an air-conditioning mogul from Palm Beach Florida, allegedly ran a stop sign in his Bentley convertible and struck a Hyundai being driven by Scott Wilson, a 23 year old civil engineering student. Wilson’s car landed in a nearby canal where the young man drowned.
The criminal proceedings coincide with a wrongful death civil suit filed by Wilson’s parents.
Fortunately for Goodman, he had set up a very large trust fund reportedly worth several hundred million dollars for the benefit of his children that is beyond his control. So far as his lawyers are concerned it is also beyond the grasp of Wilson’s parents should their case prove successful. What makes this case particularly interesting however, is the fact that one of those children is also his 42 year old girlfriend.
At the advice of Goodman’s estate planning attorney, Goodman has recently adopted his girlfriend, Heather Laruso Hutchins, making her a beneficiary of the Trust. The craftiness of this situation would be that the parents of Mr Wilson would be unable to claim the Trust funds as a component of their lawsuit in the event that they are successful.
According to a recent article on slate.com there is actually a growing trend in the United States of adopting one’s adult lover or spouse for the associated estate planning benefits.
Before you race out and adopt your significant other here in Australia, there are a number of implications that you will need to consider:
Rumors are currently swirling that the civil matter has been resolved by an out of court settlement. In any event however, in my view, whilst Mr Goodman’s estate planning attorney’s approach was a novel one, it is not one that I believe carries prospects of success in Australia.
Whilst it is important to consider asset protection in your estate planning, this case probably takes it a bit too far!
Please contact me if you have any questions regarding Asset Protection and Estate Planning.