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Entrepreneur adopts girlfriend to protect estate

Getting the financial house in order and managing an estate can be a complex and time-consuming operation. Even for many Michigan residents whose lifestyle is less ostentatious than others, estate planning is an important matter. But for one extremely wealthy polo club owner, estate planning was taken to a new level when he made the questionable move of adopting his adult girlfriend.

A half-continent apart and many worlds away from many hard-working, blue-collar Michigan residents, a multimillionaire polo magnate is currently facing the kind of estate planning debacle normally reserved for movie stars. The controversy has caught the wealthy, equestrian society by storm.

Two years after the founder of the International Polo Club Palm Beach was arrested for drunk driving, fleeing the scene of a crime, and hitting and killing a 23-year-old man in the process, it was discovered by the court that the entrepreneur adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend. The adoption is raising serious speculation as to the man's motives.

The attorney for the polo magnate claims that the decision to adopt his girlfriend was not motivated by the accident. In addition to estate planning issues, the man is currently facing charges of manslaughter while driving under the influence, vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of the accident. The man is also facing a complaint in civil court where information about the adoption first came out.

The court and opposing counsel suspect the adoption was a ruse to protect hundreds of millions of dollars in trust assets from the reach of the court. According to court documents, the man's adopted girlfriend is now entitled to receive between $250,000 and $5 million every year through an irrevocable trust.

Estate planning can be very complicated, and how a person handles an estate depends on the unique circumstances and desires of that specific asset holder. Although adopting a girlfriend may be an extreme example, considering the benefits of marital, revocable, AB living and special needs trusts is something any Michigan resident may want to do when planning the administration of an estate.

Source: New York Times, "In Polo Country, a Tale of Death, Money and Adoption," Lizette Alvarez, Feb. 13, 2012

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