Pop quiz: You’re wealthy and getting sued for a wrongful death. How do you protect your money from falling into the hands of the plaintiff?
a. Give everything to charity
b. Move your money into a hidden offshore account
c. Adopt your girlfriend
Add this interesting tactic to the list of ways the wealthy protect their money: A 48-year-old polo club owner in Florida has legally adopted his adult girlfriend as his daughter, in what many say is an attempt to shield his assets ahead of a civil lawsuit.
John Goodman is being sued by the parents of a 23-year-old who he hit and killed when he ran a red light in February 2010, according to the sheriff's report. The trial is set to start on March 27th.
His prospects don’t look good. Goodman was driving with a blood-alcohol limit at twice the legal limit the night of the crash. He also faces criminal charges, including DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of the crash, for which he could face 30 years in prison.
Will It Work?
While it’s not totally clear what Goodman’s motivations were in adopting his 42-year-old girlfriend, the judge on the case had already ruled that a trust for Goodman’s two minor children could not be considered as part of his financial worth by the jury. Now his girlfriend/daughter is entitled to a third of that trust, and since she is over 35, she can begin drawing from it immediately.
Goodman's civil attorney told the press in a vague statement that the adoption was to ensure the financial stability of his children, “and has nothing to do with the lawsuit.” Cue raised eyebrows.
Then again, the ploy may not even work, since the judge on the case may rule that the girlfriend is not a legitimate beneficiary under the trust. Then Goodman will just have a very conflicted relationship with his girlfriend/daughter.
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