The Gore-Tex Succession Plan Stands Up To An Unusual Challenge


Was this the right result?  It’s hard to argue with the outcome.  Who would have thought that someone would be so desperate to increase her family’s share of an inheritance pie that she would adopt her 65-year old ex-husband? Even though the trust didn’t have language to deal with this situation, there was enough wiggle room in the definition of the word “grandchild” in the trust document that the court was able to fashion this result. Sometimes, the law is about fairness in the end.

On the other hand, unusual adoptions for family inheritances aren’t unheard of — just ask the Florida millionaire who adopted his girlfriend to try to shield his family fortune from a lawsuit. An adoption does create a legal parent-child relationship, so why shouldn’t it count?

This case shows what great lengths some people will go to when they want more of the family fortune.  Probate courts fights over wills, trusts and estates — not to mention joint bank accounts, real estate deeds and gifts — are quite common in a wide range of estates, from billionaire estates like this one to even modest estates of no more than a hundred thousand dollars.

That’s why doing the proper estate planning ahead of time is so important. While a good estate plan can’t always prevent an inheritance fight — as this story demonstrates — it can dramatically improve the chances of your client’s wishes being followed.  If the Gores hadn’t done such a good job with their estate planning, Susan may have been able to achieve her goal of more stock for her children.  But, the Gores’ estate plan — dating all the way back to 1972 — was created well enough to stand up to even Susan’s unusual approach.

It’s even more important to do this planning ahead of time when there is a family-owned business involved.  We’ve recently shared some stories with you about succession planning gone awry.  This is a great example of how succession planning can go right, for you to talk to your clients about.

Sure they likely won’t have to worry about their children adopting ex-spouses, but all business owners need to plan how to pass their businesses along to the next generation, in order to minimize taxes, reduce the chances for a family fight, and ensure that their legacies are carried on as they’d like.

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