“Adult adoption” is a technique that is sometimes used in estate planning. The concept is simple – it occurs when one adult adopts a person over the age of 18. Why would anyone do this?
Though it might seem a little strange, there are a number of benefits to adult adoption. Typically in estate planning, this is done for the purpose of securing an inheritance, but it may also be used to formalize an existing relationship, or gain the legal right to provide long term care.
Florida Requirements for Adult Adoption
Though a number of states have either heavily restricted or banned adult adoption entirely, under Florida law this process is quite legal and very simple. Adult adoption in our state is actually much simpler than the process of adopting a child.
The only firm requirement is the consent of the adopter and adoptee. If the adoptee is married, his or her spouse should also agree to the arrangement. However, if for some reason the spouse does not agree, the court can proceed with the adoption anyway if there is a significant cause to do so. In Florida, you do not need consent from the biological parents of the adoptee, but the parents do have to be notified before the hearing.
Reasons for Adult Adoption
As stated above, there are a number of reasons behind adult adoptions. Here are the most common ones:
- Inheritance Purposes. Adult adoption is most commonly used to simplify the process of inheritance. Becoming the legal child of another adult can help secure your inheritance, and make it easier to inherit assets like financial accounts or property. Under the laws of intestate succession, the assets in a parent’s estate transfer directly to any children they have. Florida laws consider adopted children the same as biological children when it comes to intestate succession.
This is could be a possible benefit for those with unmarried partners, stepchildren, distant relatives, or even cherished employees that the adoptee wishes to provide for.
It is also a possibility for the beneficiaries of a trust fund without children of their own, who wish to steer the assets from a trust to another adult person of their choice, rather than having the funds go to their children, their siblings, or other relatives.
- Formalize Parent/Child Relationships. The second most common reason is largely symbolic, but still deeply important to many families. Adult adoption provides a method of formalizing the relationship between non-biological family members—for example, full grown foster children or step-children.
Adult adoption is also a popular option for individuals who located their biological families after they became adults, or biological fathers reconnecting with fully grown children they did not know they had.
- Providing Care. Finally, adult adoption may be used to ensure the long-term care of an adult with a diminished capacity or disability. Through this process, one adult can obtain the legal responsibility over someone who lacks the ability to care for themselves.
For example, adopting an adult individual who has developed a mental illness can allow the adopter to make important choices on behalf of the adoptee. This may include financial or medical care decisions.
Things to Consider Before an Adult Adoption
It’s important to carefully consider your motivations before adopting another adult. Though it is fairly easy to perform an adult adoption in Florida, it can be very difficult to reverse an adoption. If your relationship with the individual changes in some way, you may not have the opportunity to undo the process.
If you are considering adopting an adult for estate planning purposes, make sure to consult with an attorney first, sharing all the information that you can while being as truthful as possible. In many cases, there are other options to achieve the same goal, and your attorney will be able to counsel you on whether adult adoptions are the best choice for your situation.
There are also considerations for the adoptee. As with the adoption of a minor, an adult adoption severs the existing legal relationship with the adoptee’s biological or custodial parents. The adoptee will also have the opportunity to change his or her name.
After the adult adoption is complete, the state will issue a new birth certificate to the adoptee with the new legal name (if the adoptee opts to change names). As with the adoption of a child, the record of this process will be confidential, and the files will be sealed.
If you are planning your estate and considering adult adoption, we can help. We’re also happy to let you know about the many other tools available to help you secure your legacy.
About the Author:
Christopher Q. Wintter is the founder of Wintter & Associates, P.A. and a board-certified expert in Trust and Estate matters by the Florida Bar. With more than 24 years’ experience as a practicing attorney, he also serves as an instructor and faculty member for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA)—the nation’s leading provider of legal advocacy skills training to practicing attorneys—and has earned the AV® Preeminent™ rating with LexisNexis Martindale Hubbell. He was also selected for inclusion in Florida Super Lawyers for 2011 and 2012 in Estate and Trust Litigation.