Should You Consider Adult Adoption?

An Indiana attorney discusses some legal considerations

When you hear the word “adoption,” you might imagine adult parents seeking to bring a young child into their home and family. And while adoption of a minor accounts for the bulk of adoptions in the U.S., it is possible to adopt an adult. Indiana state law allows individuals who are at least 18 years of age to be adopted, given they make a proper petition to the court and give their own consent.

Why Choose Adult Adoption?

Why would an adult want to be legally adopted? The reasons can vary from the emotional to the practical. Julie Andrews, a family law attorney in Indianapolis, recalls one adult adoption where the adult adoptee was the stepchild of the adoptive parent. “So it was to formalize the parent-child relationship,” she says. “There’s all sorts of reasons why somebody’s raised by a person that’s not their biological parent. … I think that it probably gives those people a sense of proudness. You know, it’s really flattering, I think, as an adult; you raise a child and then that person as an adult says, ‘I want you to adopt me.’ I mean, that’s got to be one of the most flattering things that can happen, right?”

Apart from formalizing an emotional family bond, one of the primary reasons for adult adoption is to secure an inheritance. “The adopted adult ‘child’ can inherit more easily from the person that’s adopting them,” Andrews says. “It could be a conversation [such as], ‘I’ve got this estate and it will be easier in the event that I die without a will,’ or ‘It’d be easier for you to inherit from me if I adopt you.’”

Another possibility where adult adoption may be practical has to do with providing care. An adoptive parent or an adult adoptee may be able to provide insurance, banking, medical consent and other such things more easily through a formal family relationship. However, the same objectives can also be handled through guardianship or medical directives, which may be easier routes than formalizing an adult adoption.

The Adoption Process and Legal Considerations

The process for adopting an adult isn’t the same as adopting a minor. “When you’ve got a child, there are more hoops that a parent or a person has to jump through,” Andrews says. When adopting a minor, adoptive parents have to complete a home study, background checks, obtain consent from one or both biological parents, and more. “When you’ve got an adult, that doesn’t matter anymore, because that adult can make his or her decision about the adoption. And a home study is obviously not necessary because the person is an adult. So it’s a little more streamlined.”

Because the adult adoptee doesn’t need consent from his or her biological parents or anyone else, it’s also less likely that an outside party will contest the adoption. “Somebody still could contest, but I don’t think there will be any bearing on anyone contesting that, so long as the person that’s being adopted is of sound mind,” Andrews adds.

If you’re considering adult adoption, there’s one important thing that Andrews says you should consider. “You can’t undo it,” she says. “Once you adopt, you can’t go back and say, ‘I don’t want this person to be my adopted child anymore.’”

An Attorney Can Help Ensure Your Adoption is Done Correctly

While adult adoption is an easier and simpler process than adoption of a minor, there’s still good reason to involve an experienced family law attorney in the process. “I always think it’s important when you’re navigating the legal system to have an attorney,” Andrews says. “There are still certain things that have to be in a petition and in the adoption decree and navigating the changing of the last name and all those kinds of things.”

The consequences of errors in the adoption process can be serious. “What if they do the adoption on their own, and they didn’t do something right?” Andrews says. “And then it’s found out later to be invalid, the [parent] is dead, and then the adopted adult can’t inherit.”

How much will it cost to get an attorney’s help with your adult adoption? “That is incredibly open,” Andrews says. Typically, lawyers will charge an hourly rate for this sort of issue, and hourly rates will vary from firm to firm.

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