The majority of adoptions involve babies and children under the age of majority (generally 18), often by parents who can't conceive a child on their own. But most states also allow for the adoption of adults. There are several reasons for adult adoption, such as formalizing a relationship with a step-child or helping someone with disabilities.
The following provides a general primer on adult adoption laws, including examples of state adoption laws and other resources.
Reasons for Adopting an Adult
The adoption of adults is not common, but the legal arrangement afforded by adoption can provide important benefits for certain individuals. Adult adoption is generally done for the following reasons:
One of the most common reasons to adopt an adult is for inheritance. Adoptees, along with other biological and adopted individuals, are the first in line to inherit from intestate decedents (who die without a will). For those who die with a valid will in place, adoption can provide additional protection in the event that it's contested by another party, since only legal relatives have standing to defend against a will contest.
In other cases, an adult may want to formalize the parent-child relationship with a step-parent or former foster parent. This may include a name change and be done mostly for symbolic reasons, but it also affects the adoptee's inheritance rights regardless of the adoption's intent. Also, this process can help with family reunions, for example fathers connecting with children they didn't previously know they had.
Finally, the adoption process can help a disabled or mentally challenged adult get needed care. For instance, someone who adopts a developmentally disabled adult may add them to their health insurance coverage, make important decisions on their behalf, and ensure that they're covered financially after they're deceased (through inheritance).
State Adult Adoption Laws
State laws govern the conditions and availability of adult adoption. States that allow adoption of adults have certain requirements such as proof of a parent-child relationship or a specified age difference between the adoptive parent(s) and the adoptee.
In addition, the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 allows states to extend guardianship or adoption to individuals between 18 and 21 who've exited foster care.
If you're considering the adoption of an adult, you'll want to take a closer look at the laws of your state. The following is just a sampling of state adult adoption laws:
Have Questions About Adult Adoption Laws? Talk to a Lawyer
If you're considering adopting an adult to reconnect with a long-lost child, to care for a disabled person, or for some other reason, you'll want to understand the specific laws and regulations of your state. An experienced adoption law attorney licensed in your state can walk you through the procedure and make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.