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Mogul's bid to adopt girlfriend challenged

Protecting the assets of an estate so that heirs reap the greatest benefit is one of the main advantages of a solid estate plan. New Jersey residents who want to be sure their loved ones are cared for in the long term owe it to themselves to leverage the tools available; wills and trusts; to protect assets against the bite of undue taxes.

A will is the key document to make sure property gets distributed to designated people. Otherwise, it will be left to the state to determine. A trust is what can be used to make sure that you, or other loved ones, are assured of a steady source of revenue, no matter what circumstances life might dish out.

There can be times when these tools might be employed in creative ways. When such attempts are made, they can lead to curious legal battles. Just such a scenario is playing out in Florida right now.

At the heart of the matter is millionaire businessman John Goodman's recent adoption of his 42-year-old girlfriend. The move has not only sparked objections from the guardian of Goodman's two biological teen-age children from his earlier marriage, it is prompting questions from some about his motives.

The adoption means the girlfriend is eligible to receive money from a children's trust fund worth several hundred million dollars. Attorneys for Goodman say he adopted his girlfriend so she would have access to the money as she fights his claim of mismanagement by the trustees.

Adding to the intrigue is that the adoption was sought and approved ahead of a criminal trial and a wrongful death suit stemming from a fatal crash for which Goodman has been charged with driving under the influence. They're due to begin in March.

Representatives for the biological children want the adoption tossed out. They argue in a recent motion that the adoption was OK'd without the court knowing about the DUI case. They say the adoption also flies in the face of public policy. And there is concern the adoption makes the trust vulnerable to being tapped for damages in the wrongful death suit. The guardian's lawyer says if Goodman wants to protect his girlfriend financially, he should marry her.

With the various legal balls in the air, Goodman's lawyers have now asked to delay the DUI trial until the adoption question is sorted out.

Source: The Palm Beach Post, "Goodman children's guardian objects to polo magnate's adoption of his girlfriend," Daphne Duret, Feb. 9, 2012

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