The laws governing the creation and administration of wills, estates and trusts can be a bit tricky. In a lot of ways, they are fairly straightforward, but as in other areas of law, there are always those quirky little loopholes that, in some cases, can lead to surprising outcomes.
Such a loophole is behind the recent story out of Florida. It’s a story that some Houston readers might think reflects a clever and creative move and others might think shows a disregard for the intent of our laws and constitutes an abuse of the system: a 48-year-old man recently adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend so that he could move assets into a trust for his “children” and thus shield them from a pending wrongful death lawsuit against him.
The man is being sued by the parents of a college student whom he killed in February 2012 when he ran a stop sign when he was drunk. Their wrongful death suit is set to begin next month. Evidently worried that he might lose, the man apparently moved hundreds of millions of dollars into a trust set up to benefit his children. Since the assets now belong to the trust and not to the man himself, they are no longer considered “his” by a court.
By adopting his girlfriend, however, the man created a beneficiary who could access the trust, since she is now his “child.”
Naturally, the family of the deceased child has objected, and a judge called the move “surreal,” but at this point, there does not seem to be anything illegal about what the man did.
What do you think? Was the man just very savvy, or did he do something that, to you, seems underhanded and devious?
Source: ABC News, “Polo Club Found Adopts Girlfriend Amid Civil Suit Over DUI Death,” Christina Ng, Feb. 2, 2012