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Heiress Adopts Former Husband as Son to Grab Inheritance: Court Rejects Rights
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On Tuesday, Delaware’s Supreme Court ruled that an heiress adopting her 65-year old husband as her son did not entitle the man to lay claim to a billion dollar inheritance. The claim was over Delaware’s famous Gore-Tex waterproof fabric fortune over which the heirs of the founders have been fighting for years. The privately held company has $3 billion in annual revenue.

The case came to court over disputes related to the wishes of late Wilbert L. Gore, the founder of the company, W.L. Gore & Associates Inc, and his late wife, Vieve, about how they intended to divide the fortune. The controversy boiled around Susan, one of the five children of Wilbert and Susan’s ex-husband, Jan Otto.

According to the court, Susan Gore, and her son Nathan Otto hatched the plan to even out the potential distribution from the family trust which would have divided 26,500 Gore shares.

  
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Each of the five children of Wilbert had four children, except Susan, who had three. According to their ideas, they understood that Susan’s children, being lesser in number would be inheriting less. So, Susan, eventually decided to adopt her ex-husband Jan Otto, to increase the number of her children to four, and be at par with her other siblings.

According to the court, Jan Otto initially assured Susan that the steps were needed to ensure benefit of their children. So, Susan Gore, visited a Wyoming court and secretly adopted Jan Otto in 2003. Within a year, Jan showed his colors and declared that he wanted to keep the potential distribution from the trust for himself, because, now he was legally entitled to the fortune as Susan’s son.

While Susan was considering that she should “un-adopt” her ex-husband and present son, Susan’s mother, Vieve Gore died, releasing the trust assets and setting into motion the courtroom battle.

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In the 37-page opinion, Chief Justice Myron Steele wrote that “The fact that Susan kept this adoption secret until Vieve died further evidences that Susan and the Otto grandchildren knew that they were acting to thwart Vieve’s intentions.”

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