Man Adopts Girlfriend as Daughter - Weird, but Totally Legal

By: Jim Dossey, MS, MBA, JD

Polo Club Palm Beach founder John Goodman, 48, adopted his longtime partner Heather Laruso Hutchins, 45, in October 2011 in an effort to protect his assets from a wrongful death suit. Goodman killed a 23 year old kid in Florida after he “allegedly” ran a stop sign while driving drunk.

Goodman had quietly adopted Hutchins to make her eligible for a 1/3 share of a $300 Million trust he had set up for his biological children. Because Hutchins was over the age of 35, she is immediately entitled to 1/3 of the trust assets.

One of the most important benefits of trusts is asset protection from lawsuits. Although Goodman cannot directly control the trust assets, by adopting Hutchins, he maintains indirect control of her share of the trust. As long as Goodman stays with Hutchins, he has access to her share of trust funds that are immune to damages from the wrongful death suit.

In Texas, an adult can be adopted under section 40 of the Texas Probate Code. As an adopted “child”, the adoptee is treated as a biological child of the “parent.” Additionally, the adopted child inherits through both their natural parents and the adoptive parents. However, according to Texas Family Code Section 162.507, if the adoptive “child” is an adult, they can only inherit from the adoptive “parents.” Note that a person can override these default rules provided by the Texas Code but writing a Last Will and Testament.

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