You may have heard of the recent Florida adoption case (Goodman v. Goodman) where a man tried to adopt his adult girlfriend in an effort to circumvent an irrevocable trust that was established for the benefit of his children when he and his ex-wife were still married. The Florida court determined that the adoption was invalid, but not for the reason you may think. It may surprise you, but adopting an adult is legal in Florida, as is adopting an adult in Pennsylvania! The Florida court invalidated Mr. Goodman’s adoption of his girlfriend not because she was an adult, but because Mr. Goodman’s only apparent reason for adopting his girlfriend was to name her as a beneficiary of the irrevocable trust and thereby reduce the shares to his biological children. Because of this, the court determined that the adoption was invalid for lack of notice to the persons who had a direct financial and immediate interest in the adoption (Mr. Goodman’s children).
An adult adoption is an adoption of any person who 18 years of age or older. There are a variety of motivations for seeking an adult adoption in Pennsylvania, including Pennsylvania Estate Planning. One of the most common for adult adoptions in Pennsylvania is to care for an elderly or incapacitated adult. While there are other legal mechanisms designed to aid caretakers in making healthcare and financial decisions on behalf of elderly or incapacitated adults, completing the adult adoption process can streamline the process of making health, medical, and financial decisions.
The legal effect of an adult adoption in PA includes the issuing of a new birth certificate, as well as a legal name change (which is optional). Unlike adopting a child in Pennsylvania, there is no requirement to notify and/or obtain consent from the birth parents of individuals age 18 or older. However, some other issues that could prevent the adoption of an adult in Pennsylvania include:
• A pre-existing sexual relationship between the adult individual and the intended adoptive parent;
• The individual to be adopted or the intended adoptive parent has been convicted of a felony or faces criminal charges in Pennsylvania or another state;
• Fraudulent reasons are suspected for seeking the adoption;
• The adult individual to be adopted is not competent to understand what is going on.
After an adult is adopted in Pennsylvania any legal relationship between the adopted adult and their biological parents is ceased. Practically, this means that an adopted person will no longer have the right to inherit from their biological parents through Pennsylvania’s intestacy law; however, biological parents may nevertheless give property and/or gifts to their adult child by specifically including them in their Pennsylvania estate plan through a Pennsylvania Will or a Pennsylvania Trust.
As with all adoption and estate law matters, the process of adult adoption is complex and can best be best navigated with the assistance of a qualified Pennsylvania Adoption Law Attorney. If you’re considering an adult adoption, you should consult with an experienced PA adoption lawyer to ensure that all parties involved understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to the adult adoption process.