ADULT ADOPTION FOR ESTATE PLANNING

INHERITANCE RIGHTS  AND OTHER RIGHTS

There are many reason why people decide to adopt an adult, but there is essentially only one legal effect: the adopted child is legally treated as if they were a biological child.  Most people would be right to think that the primary legal result is a creation of inheritance rights in the newly adopted adult.  There are, however, more rights attendant to being a child of some.  Some veterans have the right to have their children attend a military academy without concern for the state quota or be eligible for certain scholarships as well as other benefits.  A parent can add a child to their health insurance the age of 26, even if they are married.  

REASONS FOR ADULT ADOPTION

Perhaps the most common reason for adoption is simply love.  Step parents sometimes raise kids as if they are their own and love them just the same.  Perhaps the child reached adulthood and expressed a desire to be legally recognized as the child of the only mother or father that the young adult has known.  The same can be said of a long term foster parent to the foster child.  Other times the “parent” wants to recognize a long time caretaker or loyal employee.  A person may only leaves money to their grandchildren, in which the child of the grandparent can adopt, so as to insure that their adopted adult can legally be considered grandchildren, as what happened to the heir to the founder of IBM.  The reasons can be endless.  

NEW YORK LAW ON ADULT ADOPTION

Compared to other states, New York has little restriction on who can adopt and practically no restriction on who can be adopted.  The only legal impediment to adoption in New York is if the person to be adopted is over 14, they can object.  For estate planning purposes, adoption is superior to leaving money in a will, as the adopted parties’ inheritance rights are less likely to be cut out, as to do so would require a Court to overturn an adoption.  It is more likely for a Court to invalidate a will than overturn an adoption.  The adoption also ends any legal relationship that may exist as a result of biology.  This obviously applies to the biological parent-child relationship, but what of an adult child vis-a-vis minor child sibling relationship?  New York state carves out this exception in some limited circumstances, although the issue of the right to sibling visits following an adult adoption is unaddressed in New York in a broader context.  

NOTICE

The Florida case of Goodman v. Goodman, 126 So. 3d 310 (Fla. DCA 2013), is a good example of some of the issues that arise as a result of a failure to plan.  The most critical thing that you have to do with any adoption is notice.  In the Goodman case, the notice at issue was that the adoptive party stood to inherit under the adopting parties family.  Other heirs to that estate stood to lose at least a portion due to the new adoptive parties inclusion.  The Florida appeals Court found that the adopting parties’ family had a right to notice.  While the circumstances of the Goodman case are specific to Florida, all potential heirs should always be put on notice, so as to avoid any future potential issues.

Whatever your decision, it will require experienced legal counsel to guide your decision every step of the way.  

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