Adopting Your Significant Other – Creative Idea or Creepy Notion?

John Goodman, an heir to a West Palm Beach air-conditioning fortune has adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend, Heather Hutchins. Goodman’s reasoning for this bizarre move is “for estate planning purposes and to ensure protection of both his and her minor children and the stability of all the family investments.” See Michelle Castillo, Fla. man adopts his 42-year-old girlfriend, CBS News (Feb. 2, 2012). By adopting his girlfriend, Ms. Hutchins is now entitled to one-third of the beneficiary interest in Goodman’s trust and will have access to her share immediately. With this adoption, Goodman now has three legal children, the other two of whom are minors.

This adoption comes on the eve of Goodman’s trial for a wrongful death suit. See Daphne Duret, Goodman’s adoption of his girlfriend challenged in court, The Palm Beach Post (Feb. 8, 2012). Two years ago, Goodman was involved in an automobile accident after running a stop sign that allegedly caused the death of 23-year-old Scott Wilson. See Castillo article. Goodman now faces criminal charges involving driving under the influence, manslaughter, and leaving the scene of an accident. See Duret article.

The minor children’s guardian and the attorney filed a motion in Miami court, asking for the adoption to be thrown out. They believe that Goodman failed to disclose his upcoming trial to the judge who approved the adoption. Otherwise, the adoption will result in Goodman’s trust being split three-ways, with Hutchins netting almost $9 million, in addition to $5 million in extra money Hutchins may ask for each year, according to the agreement.… <Read More>

Will the U.S. Supreme Court History Repeat Itself Again?

A look back into the history of this country illustrates that the fight over whether same-sex marriage should be allowed is yet another hotly debated issue that has divided this country and challenged our long-standing notions of morality and tradition.  Less than a century ago the thought of women having a right to vote was deemed unconscionable.  Today women cannot even fathom the fact that they could have ever been denied such a fundamental right as citizens.   About fifty years ago African-Americans fought to have the same rights as white Americans to vote, to frequent public establishments, and to utilize public transportation; whether black children should be allowed to attend the same schools as white children was hotly disputed; blacks were denied admittance into graduate schools, and interracial marriages were prohibited.   Today our country is being led by a black (or to be more accurate – interracial) president who attended an Ivy League law school.  The contested list of constitutional rights is long.   And if an old adage that “history tends to repeat itself” is true, then it is just a matter of time before the right to a same-sex marriage becomes the supreme law of the land, and protests and debates are featured on the History channel.  Until then, we just have to wait and watch as this fight plays out in the courts, in the Congress, in the upcoming presidential elections, and in our streets.… <Read More>

New York Marriage Recognition Rule

New York’s long-settled “marriage recognition rule” affords recognition to out-of-state marriages and recognizes as valid a marriage considered valid in the place where celebrated, unless it is contrary to the prohibitions of natural law or an express statutory prohibition.  Same-sex marriage does not fall within either  of these exceptions to the marriage recognition rule.

In a ruling late February, The New York Appellate Division, First Department affirmed this established NY tenet in the Matter of Ranftle. The facts involved a man’s petition to vacate a Surrogate’s Court probate decree finding that his deceased’s brother same-sex partner was entitled to the residue of the will as the surviving spouse. The lower court found that the men’s marriage was valid under the laws of Canada and did not fall into either of the two exceptions to the marriage recognition rule, as it was not affirmatively prohibited or proscribed by natural law.

On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed, rejecting a public policy argument brought forth by the appellant.… <Read More>

Oprah’s Adopted Sister Gets Nothing

On January 24, Oprah revealed that she has a half sister, which her mother had given up for adoption. Her sister – Patricia Lloyd – had tried tracking her mother down, but her mother refused contact with her. Patricia ended up getting anonymous information about her birth family through the agency and figured out her mother was Oprah’s mother based on the birth dates of her children and her biography on television.

Patricia is the only living sibling of Oprah. While watching that episode of Oprah (yes, I watch because it is the last season), I thought to myself what a lucky lady. Patricia has a claim to Oprah’s million-dollar empire, or does she? In most states, adoption “cuts off” the adopted person from their adopted family. This cutting off means that you cannot inherit from your birth family. The New York law (though it wouldn’t apply in this case since the adoption took place in Wisconsin) goes so far to say that “adopted children and their issue thereafter are strangers to any birth relatives.” Even if you meet your birth family once you are adopted, you cannot regain your inheritance rights. The only way that Patricia will get any of Oprah’s money is if Oprah expressly puts her adopted half-sister in her will.… <Read More>

Corrupt Notaries,r:5,s:0Being a notary public requires an exam, fees and licensing through the Department of State. With all these loops to jump through, getting your signature notarized is required on almost every court document submitted. A notary is required to authenticate someone’s signature on a particular document to ensure that the person who signed is the person described in the document. This is done by having the person sign right in front of the licensed notary public after obtaining photo identification from the person. Once the notary witnesses the person’s signature, he or she then signs a jurat and annexed a stamp with all their licensing information. But what happens when there is notary fraud? Should there be a requirement to check the status or existence of a notary’s license?… <Read More>