A Unique Legal Category: Adopting Adults

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You have never heard of an adult adopting another adult, and may even wonder why anyone would feel the need to do so. While uncommon, there are legal justifications for ensuring that an adult relationship is connected in this manner. The rules about adults adopting other adults do vary from state to state. For situations that may call for an adult adopting an adult, read on.

Reasons to Adopt an Adult

Inheritance Purposes:

While you may name any person to be a beneficiary of a will, some people like to solidify close relationships they want to recognize in their wills by legally adopting them. The perception is that an adopted "child" who is inheriting assets would not be as likely to trigger a challenge to the will.

Foster Children and Step-Children:

An adoption presents a way to formally recognize a former foster child or step-child as one of your children, even if they are now considered adults by law.

Biological Child:

For a parent who was previously unaware of the existence of a child, a formal adoption can help strengthen the familial bond.


This option allows people who wish to extend "child" status to an adult with diminished physical or mental capacity in order to ensure their continued care.

Other Points to Keep in Mind

There are several reasons why the courts would not let one adult adopt another. The courts look at all adoptions as a way to legalize a parent-child relationship, so any sexual relationship between the parties would preclude this action. 

The courts will not approve an adoption if there is a suspicion of fraud. For example, if an adult is attempting to take advantage of another adult to inherit assets or a life insurance payout.

With the exception of adopting an adult with diminished capacity, many states require the parent be older than the adopted adult. Along those same lines, (with the exception of incapacity in the adoptee), both parties must consent to the adoption. In other words, you cannot adopt someone against their will. In some states the spouse of both parties must also consent.

If the courts approve the adoption, a new birth certificate is issued. The newly adopted adult may legally change their last name, if they wish. Just as with adopting a minor child, the parties have the option of asking that all court records concerning the adoption be sealed.

What does family really mean? The ability to legally adopt an adult shows that the meaning can be a flexible as necessary. Contact a family law attorney (like Kleveland Law ) for more information about legally adopting another adult.