For some reason, Florida has had more than its fair share of interesting adoption questions. Remember the man that tried to adopt his girlfriend! (Adoption Series Part 2, June 13, 2014. Other prior blogs on adoption include: How does an adopted person inherit? (Adult Adoption Series Part 1, May 30, 2014), Part 3(August 22, 2014), “Virtual” Adoption-No Court Required! (Adoption Series Part 4, September 8, 2014), Can Adoptee Challenge the Legality of Her Own Adoption in Order to Inherit from Her Biological Parent? (Adoption Series Part 5, May 15, 2015).
Well, the latest case decided by our own First District Court of Appeal on March 31, 2017 is Edwards v. Maxwell. There, John Edwards, who was the beneficiary of three irrevocable discretionary trusts created by his great grandparents, adopted a son in 2004. Edwards’ biological son, Maxwell, later sued his father to have the adoption order vacated. He didn’t want to share “his” portion of the trusts with his new brother. (“Some loving son”)!
The court ruled that the biological son had no legal standing to challenge the adoption in court. The reason was that he was only a “contingent” beneficiary of the three family trusts. In other words, he only would be entitled to disbursements under the trust if an independent trustee said so. Because he did not possess any direct, immediate, or financial interest in the adoption, he had no legal right to have received notice about the adoption that added his new brother as an eligible trust beneficiary and, so, had no legal standing now to have the 2004 adoption order vacated.
Really, if you are lucky enough to have great great grandparents who set up tax benefited and creditor protected trusts in which you may benefit, why be greedy and not share some of this windfall with your brother? Son suing his father in order to cheat his own brother — we cannot make these stories up.