Heir to IBM Fortune Adopts Her Lesbian Parter in Maine – Supreme Court Upholds Adoption’s Validity

This seemed as good a topic as any to ease myself back into the blog-o-webs, so here goes:

According to this story at 39online.com (a CW network affiliate out of Houston),

Maine’s highest court gave a legal victory Thursday to a woman who stands to stake a claim to a share of one of America’s premier business fortunes thanks to her adoption by her lesbian partner.

Back in ’91, Olive Watson, daughter of Thomas Watson Jr. – the guy who built IBM – adopted Patricia Spado.  At issue in the case was whether the adoption was legal at all.  The two longtime partners spent “several weeks” each summer in North Haven.  Like many other states, Maine requires peitioners for adoption to live in the state and, after Mr. Watson, Jr. and his wife passed away, the Trustees for Mr. Watson’s trust “alleged that the couple obtained the adoption through fraudulent means by not disclosing their relationship to the court. The petition further alleged that Spado and Watson, as New York residents, had not fulfilled the statutory requirements of living in Maine at the time of the adoption.”  On appeal, the Trustees further argued “that the adoption should have been annulled on the grounds that it was obtained by two partners seeking to manufacture inheritance rights who did not intend to establish a normal parent-child relationship.”

In yesterday’s decision, Maine’s supreme court ruled that even if Spado did not live in Maine under the law, the adoption should not have been annulled [in the lower court] because there wasn’t enough evidence to support the claim that Watson had committed fraud.

The court also rejected the trustees’ claim that the adoption should be annulled based on a public policy prohibiting adoptions involving same-sex couples. Historically, adult adoptions have been recognized as a means to convey inheritance rights, to formalize an existing parent-child relationship or to provide perpetual care to a disabled adult adoptee, the decision reads.

Its interesting to ponder what would have happened if Watson and Spado were allowed to marry…  Under the terms of most standard trusts, its unlikley that Spado, as Watson’s spouse would have inherited anything given that most trusts attmpt to keep assets in the bloodline of the Grantor.  Being the adopted child of Watson, however, Spado is deemded to be just that.  Interesting.

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