Can You Legally Adopt An Adult As Your Child?

Can you adopt another adult? In many cases, yes, and there are good reasons for doing so. However, adult adoption can have some unintended consequences for both the adoptee and others. Here's what you should know.

Why would you adopt an adult?

Sometimes the family you make is simply better than the family into which you're born. Some people choose to adopt an adult in order to recognize a bond of love that's as strong as any biological tie ever could be. Adoption therapists say that adult adoptions also provide a sense of stability and belonging for both the adoptive parents and adult child.

Common situations surrounding adult adoptions involve stepparents and foster parents. If a birth parent's rights aren't legally terminated, it may not be possible for a stepparent or foster parent to adopt a child until that child becomes an adult. At that point, the birth parent's consent for adoption is no longer required.

Another situation, while less common, involves people that simply develop, through chance or fate, a close relationship with a young adult person that they think of as a son or daughter.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of adult adoption?

Adult adoptions allow the legalization of an emotional bond - and provide the adoptee with all the legal rights that a natural child has toward his or her parent's estate as well. An adopted child (no matter what age the adoption occurred) has the same inheritance rights that a natural child has. If the adopted adult is disabled, he or she might also acquire insurance benefits or Social Security benefits through his or her adoptive parents.

However, adoption usually severs the right of the adoptive child to inherit from his or her own biological parents. (There are exceptions in some states to that rule if a person is adopted by a stepparent.)

Inheritance issues can have far-reaching implications. The existing and future children of the adopted adult also lose their right to inheritance through biological lines.

Do all states allow adult adoptions?

Most states allow adult adoptions for the purpose of love or for inheritance reasons alone, but each state has it's own legal quirks where adoptions are concerned and some are restrictive.

For example, in Ohio, an adult can only be adopted if he or she is mentally or physically disabled, had developed a parent-child relationship with the adoptive parents as a minor through a stepparent or foster parent relationship, or is the biological child of the adoption petitioner's spouse. You wouldn't be able to adopt someone that you met after they turned 18, no matter how much you think of them as your son or daughter -- at least not in that particular state.

If you have a strong bond with an adult that you think of as your son or daughter, a legal adoption can provide security and stability on an emotional and financial level. Adoption can allow you to make sure that he or she is really treated "like one of the family" even after you are gone. Talk to an attorney today to discuss your case. Consider some additional reading to learn more.