Adult Adoption as an Estate Planning Tool

Adult Adoption as an Estate Planning Tool

Adult adoption can be utilized as an estate planning tool to secure inheritance rights for the adoptee or to formalize an existing parent-child relationship. In recent years, adult adoptions have become more popular as a mechanism to provide protection for a same-sex partner, stepchild, distant relative or even a loyal employee. This is particularly important if a client is adamantly opposed to creating a will or anticipates a will contest from close relatives.

 
Requirements for Adult Adoption
 
Many states prohibit all adult adoptions. In the states that allow adult adoptions, all that may be required is that the adoptee be a legal adult and voluntarily agrees to the adoption. However, because adult adoptions are governed by state law, requirements vary from state to state.
 
  • Some states require that the adopting party be older than the person adopted
  • Some states allow adult adoption only if the person to be adopted is of diminished mental capacity
  • Some states require the consent of a married adoptee’s spouse
  • Some states require notification of the birth parents
 
 
Avoid Mistakes
 
When counseling your client on adult adoption, urge your client to consider what he or she would want to happen if the relationship with the adoptee ends. Adoptions are difficult to reverse, so the strategy of using adult adoption as an estate planning tool can have undesired consequences if the relationship terminates. The adoptee will still receive a share of the estate. 
  
Moreover, consider how the adult adoption would impact other children or heirs. In some families, adult adoption leads to a struggle between blood relatives trying to keep an inheritance in the family and an adult whose legal status in the family has come through adoption.
  
An adoption creates a new parent-child relationship and severs the existing relationship with biological parents or with the non-custodial biological parent only, in the case of stepparent adult adoption. Accordingly, a client should be made aware that by adopting a partner, the partner stands to lose any inheritance from his or her biological parents.
 
Adoption Process
 
The adoption process is the same whether a child or an adult is adopted. The court will issue a new birth certificate for the adopted individual. The legal relationships with biological or custodial parents are severed. The adopted adult may change her last name if desired. Finally, the adoption records are usually sealed.