Adoption Law

Adult Adoptions

There are a variety of situations where a person may wish to adopt an adult. Adult adoption could be for reasons of inheritance, long-term care, insurance coverage, or to formalize parent-child relationships. Whether adoption of adults for these reasons is permitted under your state’s laws will vary. Most states do have laws governing adult adoptions.

Before you pursue an adult adoption, you should be sure to check with an adoption lawyer in your state to determine whether adult adoption is even possible, as some states do not permit adult adoptions at all.

Can an Adult Be Adopted?

Historically, adult adoption laws were devised as a means for stepparents to adopt stepchildren later in life or in cases of adults with developmental disabilities. More recently, adult adoption laws have been used by same-sex couples to create inheritance rights or other types of financial security. These efforts have met with varying amounts of success, depending on the interpretations of these laws by different state court systems.

It is important to keep in mind that adoptions, unlike marriages, can be extremely difficult to reverse. If the relationship between the adoptive parent and the adoptee breaks down, there may not be a legal way to undo the inheritance and other legal parental rights created between the two persons after the adoption.

Which States Allow For an Adult To Be Adopted?

While not all states allow for an adult to be adopted, it is possible to be legally adopted as an adult in:

If a prospective adult adoptee is between 18 and 21 years of age, Colorado and Rhode Island, as well as the jurisdictions of America Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands, allow adult adoption.

Common Reasons To Adopt an Adult

There are a number of reasons a parent or parents may choose to adopt an adult.

For example, the parents may have been caring for a foster child in foster and after the child becomes an adult, would like to formalize that relationship to become the legal parents for emotional and legal reasons. The same can be said for a child that was either neglected or abused by their birth family, and had formed a deep connection with another parent that now desires to formally invite them into their own family.

As another example, 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 birth parents. Once the adoptee becomes a legal adult, consent of the adoptee’s biological parents is no longer required. In an adult adoption, the only consents required are those of the adoptive parent and the adoptee.

Inheritance for Adopted Adults

Another 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 assets, just as if they were a natural-born child.

A parent with no obvious heir to their estate may elect to adopt a suitable candidate in order to make the transfer of their assets flow more smoothly upon their death. 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’ll want to look into alternate ways to pass on your estate.

Long-Term Care and Adult Adoption

A would-be adoptive parent looking to protect a disabled, incapacitated, or otherwise needy adult in terms of long-term medical care may seek adult adoption as an option. This allows the prospective parents to be afforded legal and financial powers which they can then use to protect the adult adoptee’s best interests.

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.

What Are the Requirements for Adopting an Adult?

In many states, adult adoption is a more streamlined adoption process than adoption involving a child. However, there may be different situations in cases involving vulnerable adults for reasons of disability, poverty, etc.

In certain cases, there must be a certain age gap between the prospective adult adoptee and the would-be adoptive parents. For example, in Nevada and Utah, the parents-to-be must be at minimum 10 years older than the adult adoptee. In Virginia, that age gap must be a minimum of 15 years.

It should also be mentioned that in instances where fraud of the adoption system is suspected — for financial gain, the gaining of U.S. citizenship, or abuse of existing regulations — an adoption is unlikely to be granted, and criminal charges may be filed in response.

What Is the Process for Adopting an Adult?

The process for adopting an adult is done at the state level. If you elect to proceed without the expertise of an adoption attorney, it is highly advised that you do a great deal of research before starting the process.

You’ll need to collect the relevant adult adoption documents from a local courthouse or government facility, including birth certificate or certified copy and petition for adoption. Fill these out to the best of your ability (though it is recommended that you retain the services of an adoption lawyer to help you navigate the adoption proceedings) in the presence of a notary, have the notary sign and validate said forms, and then submit the paperwork and any fees.

You will be assigned a court date with family court and will need to attend this hearing date in order to have a judge deliver a verdict and issue a court order in your case.

Given the complex nature of certain cases of adult adoption, it is strongly suggested that you get legal advice before beginning proceedings. A lawyer familiar with case law, family law court procedures, and the state court system can be invaluable when trying to ensure a smooth, quick process with as few legal problems as possible.

Was this helpful?