When most people think about adoption, they picture the scenario in which there is a minor child who is parentless and who will become dependent on the new family for their financial and emotional needs. People are less likely to raise an eyebrow when someone adopts a five-year-old than when someone adopts a 35-year-old.

The truth is, adoption is not limited to just minor children, and the reasons for adopting an adult is not that different from those for adopting a minor child. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking advantage of the adoption laws that allow you to pick your own family.

Whether someone is an adult or a minor is determined by state law. A minor in many states is defined as someone under the age of 21 (sometimes under 18). While adult adoption is allowed in many states, it is strictly prohibited in others.

Even in the states in which it is permitted, adult adoption will have strict requirements that you must satisfy even before you start the adoption process.

If you are considering adopting an adult, you may wish to consult with an attorney in your state to determine what the procedure is for moving forward. Regardless of the variations in your state, that procedure will require the court’s approval of the adoption before it can be finalized.

Why Adopt an Adult?

As stated above, there are many reasons for adopting an adult. Some of those reasons include:

  • Estate Planning: Estate planning is the most common reason for someone to adopt an adult because doing so makes property transfers easier under inheritance laws.
    • The law grants certain rights because of the parent-child relationship. When one has been legally adopted, the law will entitle the adopted child to the same rights and privileges to inherit the parent’s property as that of a natural child.
  • Real Property Taxes: Even when dealing with an estate planning situation, the parent-child relationship can have additional benefits.
    • Some states, for instance, allow the transfer of property between parent and child with minimal tax consequences because of that special relationship.
  • Formalizing Existing Relationships: Perhaps you have served as a foster parent or you have grown particularly fond of an adult with whom you have developed a parent-child relationship.
    • If the adult adoptee is incapacitated in some way and you have been taking care of them, you may wish to assure your ability to continue doing so and to make medical decisions for them by formally adopting them. As well, you may have married later in life and wish to adopt the adult children of your new spouse.
    • Or, you are a birth parent who wishes to “renew” your biological claim to the adult you gave away as a child. Formally adopting the adult can help you to make these relationships official in the eyes of the law.

What is the Adult Adoption Process?

While adoption procedures are determined by individual states, you can expect to encounter the same requirements from state to state whether you are seeking to adopt a minor or an adult.

Generally, you will petition the appropriate state court to get the adoption process started. Your petition will, of course, include paperwork showing that the adult consents to the adoption.

In some cases, spousal consent may also be necessary. A hearing may be ordered. In any case, the court will need to issue a formal court order before it can become official.

As is the case with the adoption of a minor child, once the adoption is approved, you will be issued a new birth certificate and your relationship with your biological or custodial parents will be severed.

Can I Be Prohibited from Adopting an Adult?

Yes. The most obvious reasons you may be prohibited from adopting the adult is that your state prohibits adult adoptions or the adult is older than the maximum age for adoption in your state. In addition, perhaps you do not meet the minimum age difference between you and the adult adoptee.

Also, even if your state allows adult adoption, you may be prohibited from adopting an adult because of incest laws. In other words, if you and the adult adoptee are involved in a sexual relationship, you will not be allowed to adopt them as your child.

Finally, if the court finds any evidence of fraud, the adoption petition will also be rejected. For example, sometimes the wealthy elderly are targeted by individuals who wish to inherit their property. Therefore, the court will want to be satisfied that the reasons for the adoption are lawful.

Do I Need a Lawyer’s Help to Adopt an Adult?

You should check with your particular state to determine whether adult adoption is permitted. The procedure for adopting an adult child can be plainly set forth, but can also be complicated by the particular facts of your case. You can consult with a family law attorney in your state to discuss your plans to adopt an adult.