A rather unique estate battle is unfolding in Maine and Connecticut as reported on February 26, 2007 by the Associated Press.

Olive Watson took the unusual step of legally adopting her same sex partner, Patricia Spado, some fifteen years ago as a means of ensuring for Spado’s financial security and presumably to guarantee the provisions of Watson’s last will (which entirely benefited Spado) against any challenge by her siblings.

Remarkably, the adoption was apparently legal in Maine notwithstanding that Spado was a year older than Watson and the two shared a conjugal relationship. Watson and Spado subsequently amicably ended their relationship in 1992 after fourteen years.

It gets even more interesting: Watson’s father was none other than the founder of the predecessor of IBM who, on his death in 1993, left a multimillion dollar trust fund for the benefit of his eighteen “grandchildren” unaware that his daughter had legally adopted Spado. A Judge in Connecticut has found that Spado cannot share in the trust (Grandfather Watson not having been aware of the adoption when he settled the trust) and Spado has appealed. The Trustees of the trust fund have apparently also commenced proceedings in Maine to seek to annul the adoption although that prospect appears unlikely as it requires proof of deception or fraud.

To my mind, the surprising element of this story is that Spado would even assert an entitlement as a “grandchild” when the purpose of the adoption was clearly to provide certainty of her entitlement to Olive Watson’s estate. It would be interesting to examine the legal requirements of adoption in Maine in more detail. Presumably the state legislature will pause to consider amendments in the glare of the spotlight of the American media….

Have a great weekend,

David