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Heirs of billion-dollar estate fight in court over distribution

When large amounts of assets are set to be divided after the death of a person, some families turn to litigation. This has occurred as a result of the deaths of the founder of the company that created Gore-Tex and his wife. Nevada readers may be interested to learn about the battle that has been waged over the estate and division of company shares.

The Gore-Tex company inheritance, which includes shares to be divided in a trust left by the deceased couple, was estimated to be valued at approximately $1 billion. In the trust, the grandchildren of the couple were set to divide 26,500 shares. When one of the deceased couple's children had fewer of her own kids than her siblings, a creative plan to even out the prospective trust distribution was hatched.

The daughter of the Gore-Tex creator decided that in order to make the distribution from the estate more even for her own children, she would adopt another person. And so she ended up adopting her 65-year-old ex-husband. The adoption was kept secret from her parents and siblings until after the death of her parents.

She considered invalidating the adoption when she learned that her ex-husband intended to keep his newly found shares for himself rather than divide them among their three children. However, the daughter's parents died before she took action. Thus, when the trust became set after the death of her mother, the ex-husband still had legal status as a grandchild.

Like families who disagree with the actions of others at the time of a trust distribution from an estate after a death in Nevada, the Gore-Tex heirs took their sibling to court over the adoption. The court agreed with the siblings arguments. It held that the adoption should be invalidated for the purposes of the trust due to its deceptive nature, among other reasons. And while there is seemingly no end to the schemes people will think up to get a little larger slice of the pie, in then end courts typically look to the real and legitimate intentions of the trust creator in deciding what is the appropriate decision.

Source: Reuters, "Court: Gore-Tex heiress can't adopt ex-husband," Tom Hals, May 23, 2012

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