Nasty, Brutish & Short

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Coming to a theater near you

March 19, 2007 10:14 AM

This is Oak Hill, the cottage in North Haven, Maine, where the heirs of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., founder of I.B.M., spend their summers:

Not too shabby, is it?  Well, it and the I.B.M. family trusts are embroiled in a huge lawsuit:

It concerns Olive F. Watson, 59, granddaughter of the I.B.M. founder and daughter of Thomas J. Watson Jr., the company’s longtime chief executive; and Patricia Ann Spado, 59, her former lesbian partner of 14 years.

Lots of money and a racy family scandal!  Let's read on!

In 1991, Ms. Watson, then 43, adopted Ms. Spado, then 44, under a Maine law that allows one adult to adopt another.

Does that sound like it was well thought through?  No, of course not:

But less than a year after the adoption, Ms. Watson and Ms. Spado broke up. Then in 2004, Ms. Watson’s mother died, leaving multimillion-dollar trusts established by her husband to be divided among their 18 grandchildren.

Guess who re-appeared on the scene after grandma died?  Yes, the "adopted" ex-lesbian lover from some years prior: 

Re-enter Ms. Spado with a claim: Because she was adopted by Olive F. Watson, she said, she is technically Thomas J. Watson Jr.’s 19th grandchild and is therefore eligible for a share of the trusts.

Of course, Grandpa didn't even know about Ms. Spado when his trust was set up.  But why should that stop her from claiming she's his grandchild?

And, to complicate matters even more, in the past few years Olive Watson has adopted again--children, this time.  And she claims those children are proper adoptees and trust beneficiaries.  But not the lesbian ex from 15 years ago.  Go figure.

The Maine and Connecticut courts have to figure it all out.  In the meantime, it should make for some interesting family conversations at Oak Hill.

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