Contesting the last will and testament of the rich and famous has long been blood sport for unhappy and greedy heirs, but the battle over a trust worth hundreds of millions of dollars established by W.L. Gore Sr., the brilliant chemist and inventor of Gore-Tex and founder of the high-tech firm bearing his name with his wife, may take the cake for invention and intrigue.
W.L. Gore died in 1986 and his wife Genevieve W. in 2005. Under the terms of W.L.'s Pokeberry Trust, shares of the trust were to be divided according to the size of the couple's five children's families. The more children in a family branch, the more money each of those children received.
While that seemed simple enough, one of their daughters, Susan W., and her three sons clamored for more -- tens of millions more. But after Genevieve refused entreaties to change the trust before her death, they conspired secretly among themselves to get more.
Their solution was simple and fiendishly clever: Because Susan Gore had three children, as opposed to her siblings, who each had four, she adopted ex-husband Jan C. Otto to equalize trust shares under the formula.
To no one's surprise, Susan's siblings contend that the adoption should not be considered valid under the trust because it was accomplished through deception and that Genevieve Gore would not have allowed such a move to proceed without changing the terms to nullify the results. Lawyers for the Gore-Otto branch of the family have argued that adult adoptions done for economic gain are permitted under Delaware case law.
In three days of testimony earlier this month in the highly regarded Chancery Court of Delaware, the state where W.L. and Genevieve Gore lived and ran their company, grandson Scott Gore testified of his grandmother's fears that family members were working behind her back to undo the trust.
Scott said that duuring a 2002 visit to his grandmother's home, she abruptly changed the conversation while preparing some food in the kitchen, stating that "The vultures are circling, waiting for me to die.''
The court has not said when it will rule on the dispute. More about it here.