A Lesson in Trust Law, or, What Happens When a Guy Makes His Girlfriend His Daughter to Avoid Paying the Parents of the Guy He Killed
Most days, this blog is all about analyzing entertainment news stories. Today, it’s just about analyzing an entertaining news story.
Forty-eight year old Florida billionaire John Goodman (owner of the International Polo Club Palm Beach, not Roseanne’s TV husband) recently shocked courts and bloggers alike with the headline-grabbing adoption of his 42-year-old girlfriend, Heather Hutchins, making Heather his eldest (and creepiest) of three children. But if the fact of a 48-year-old man adopting his adult girlfriend as his daughter doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies, here’s betting the reason he did so will.
Goodman is currently facing both criminal DUI manslaughter charges and a wrongful death civil action for causing the death of 23-year-old Scott Wilson, who drowned when his car overturned and plunged into a canal after being struck by Goodman’s Bentley in February 2010. (Of course he was driving a Bentley.) Goodman could forfeit a significant portion of his net worth should the jury find against him and award punitive damages in the wrongful death case. But even if Wilson’s family wins a massive judgment against Goodman, they can’t take from what he doesn’t own — and “what he doesn’t own,” says Florida Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley (who is presiding over the wrongful death suit against Goodman), includes a $100-million irrevocable trust, created all the way back in 1991, for the benefit of Goodman’s “children.”
Observers have speculated that Goodman — knowing that his money may soon become the Wilsons’ money once their lawsuit is finished — adopted Hutchins as a way to indirectly access a fortune which the Wilsons cannot. In other words, Goodman’s maneuver seemingly isn’t so much about making Hutchins a wealthy woman as it is about keeping himself a wealthy man. The head-spinning development caused even Judge Kelley to observe that the court was entering a “legal twilight zone.” So what is really going on here? Continue reading the full story . . . »