There are a variety of situations in which a person may wish to adopt an adult, or a person over the age of eighteen, such as for the purposes of inheritance, long-term care and insurance coverage, and to formalize parent-child relationships. Whether adoption of adults for these reasons is permitted under the law of your state will vary widely, although most states do have laws governing adult adoptions in at least some circumstances, with a few exceptions. Before you pursue an adult adoption, then, you should be sure to check with an adoption lawyer in your state in order to determine whether such an adoption is even possible, as some states do not permit adult adoptions at all.
One common reason for the desire to adopt an adult is related to inheritance. Even an adult adoption creates a parent-child relationship between two people, which makes that relationship subject to inheritance laws. In this case, adoption is a means of ensuring that the adopted adult will inherit your assets, just as if he or she was your natural born child. However, given the fact that certain states may restrict adult adoptions for the purposes of inheritance, such as by requiring that there be a specific age difference between the adoptive parent and the adoptee, you want to look into alternate ways to effectuate your wishes regarding your estate.
Another reason that some people choose to complete adult adoptions stems from the diminished capacity of the adult to be adopted. By legally adopting the person with diminished capacity, you can ensure that the person can receive the benefits of your insurance coverage, inheritance, or other means that will provide the person with financial and health care resources for the remainder of his or her life.
It is also common for adult adoptions to occur simply for the purposes of solidifying or formalizing a previously informal, non-biological parent-child relationship. For instance, stepparents or foster parents may wish to adopt adult children with whom they have enjoyed a parent-child relationship for a number of years. The adoption might not have occurred at an earlier date due to a lack of consent by one of the adoptee’s biological parents, or due to some other legal impediment. Once the adoptee becomes a legal adult, consent of the adoptee’s biological parent(s) is no longer required; in an adult adoption, the only consents required are those of the adoptive parent and the adoptee.
Although adult adoption laws were historically devised as a means for stepparents wishing to adopt stepchildren later in life, and in cases of adults with developmental disabilities, adult adoption laws have been utilized in recent years by same-sex couples in order to create inheritance rights or other types of financial security. These efforts have met with a varying amount of success, depending on the interpretations of these laws by different state’s court systems.
Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that adoptions, unlike marriages, can be extremely difficult to reverse. Therefore, if the relationship between the adoptive parent and the adoptee breaks down, for whatever reason, there may not be a legal way to undo the inheritance and other legal rights created between the two persons as a result of the adoption.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.