Adult Adoption: Choosing a New Family

Adult adoption is legal in most states and is more common than you think. Why would one adult wish to adopt another adult? The most common reasons for an adult adoption are formalizing an existing parent-child relationship between a former foster child and a foster parent, formalizing an existing relationship between a step child and a step parent, and creating legal inheritance rights within a relationship.

The requirements in each state may differ, but overall the process is fairly straightforward and less complicated than the adoption of minor children where the court must consider the parental fitness of the adoptee’s parents, the ability of the parent to support the adoptee and what is in the best interest of the adoptee. In Massachusetts, there are few requirements. First, an adult may adopt someone who is younger as long as the adoptee is not a spouse, brother, sister, uncle or aunt. Second, if the adult petitioning the court for adoption is married, the spouse must also join in the adoption. Third, the adoptee must consent to the adoption as is the case for the adoption of any person over the age of 12. Fourth, Massachusetts further requires that if the adoptee is married, the spouse must also consent to the adoption, but the consent of the adoptee’s birth parents is not required. Finally, the court requires a statement of affidavit of the petitioner(s) explaining the parent-child relationship and reason for the adoption. The adoptee has the option of requesting a new name and new birth certificate, but neither is required.

Whether intended or not, adult adoption creates inheritance rights. The adoption gives the adoptee the right to inherit from the adopter as a legal child under a will and under the laws of intestacy which is when someone dies without a will and the state dictates who can inherit, and in what order of preference.

In Massachusetts, we are fortunate that our adoption statute supports and encourages adult adoptions and the formalizing of existing parent-child relationships. Our office has handled numerous adult adoptions, each with its own set of unique circumstances. Recently, we have represented step parents wishing to formalize the long term and loving parent-child relationship with a step child, a couple who adopted their former high school exchange student from Europe, now married, and to whom they had grown close over the years, and an aunt who adopted the adult niece whom she raised, after the niece’s mother passed away. In each instance, the adult adoption enabled the adult adoptee to choose and become part of a new family. Even for an adult adoptee, an adoption can provide comfort and security by giving legal permanence to an emotional bond.

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