What is Adult Adoption?

Elizabeth West

Adult adoption is different that child adoption, since the adoptee is considered an adult, as defined by state law. Adults may be adopted as a means of formalizing a parental relationship, as with an adult step-child. Some other reasons a person may consider adult adoption include securing an inheritance or to ensure proper care for a person with diminished capacity. Laws regarding adult adoption are restrictive and vary between jurisdictions, and adopting an adult internationally is even more difficult.

Same-sex couples and others should consult with an attorney about using adult adoption in matters relating to wills and implied trusts.
Same-sex couples and others should consult with an attorney about using adult adoption in matters relating to wills and implied trusts.

Adult adoption laws were first put into place to enable step-parents to formalize close relationships they developed with their stepchildren. Without the consent of both biological parents adoption of an underage stepchild could not go forward, but when the child turned 18 it was possible to proceed. The adoption severs any relationship, both legal and financial, that the adoptee has with a biological parent.

Estate laws generally give inheritances to siblings and close relatives of someone who dies, but the person may want their assets going to someone else, such as a devoted employee or close friend. Care should be taken to inform family members of an adoption decision so they are not taken by surprise when inheritance or trust funds are disbursed. Same-sex couples have attempted to use adult adoption for this purpose. There are better alternatives in this situation, and couples should consult an attorney regarding a will and implied trusts.

A person who is permanently disabled due to accident or disease can also be provided for using adult adoption. In this case it amounts to a legal guardianship, which allows the caregiver to make decisions regarding the adopteeā€™s medical care and education. The adoption may also provide insurance coverage. Medical expenses of a disabled person can be significant, and they may not be able to contribute to their upkeep on their own.

International adoption requires a petition for orphan status to be filed before the adoptee is 16 years old. Adoption does not remove immigration requirements. The government may allow certain exceptions in the case of disabled adults. An experienced immigration attorney will be able to assess the situation.

Laws regarding adult adoption are strict. The relationship between the two parties petitioning for adoption is considered a parent-child union, and sexual involvement will generally cause the petition to be rejected. Age restrictions state that the person adopting must be older than the adoptee. Any form of fraud, to gain monetary profit or control over someone who may not understand the arrangement, is also grounds for rejection. Parties interested in adult adoption should take time to learn the laws and regulations of their jurisdiction before they petition.

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