In modern-day America, blended families are common. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that more than half of American families are the result of remarriages. There are a whopping 1,300 stepfamilies created each day in this country.
Unfortunately, the emotional bonds created by a loving step-relationship don't translate well in the legal arena. A lot of seniors who have blended families may have serious concerns when it comes to crafting their estate plans.
Adult adoption might be a viable solution to those problems. Unlike the adoption of a child, which requires an investigation into the adopter's fitness and a determination of what's in the child's best interests, adult adoption is usually a simple affair.
Once accomplished, it confers inheritance rights on the adopted individual. It also could make it easier for that adopted individual to be involved in an aging senior's care -- without worry that they won't have a voice because of an uncertain legal relationship.
When is adult adoption an appropriate step? Consider these examples:
- You have a friend or relative (like a niece or nephew) that you want to inherit your estate after you are gone and you hope to avoid unnecessary estate taxes.
- You have a parent-child relationship with a former foster child that you were never able to adopt due to their family situation at the time.
- You have a stepchild (or several) whom you regard as your own and don't want them to have their inheritance rights challenged.
- You gave a child up for adoption, have reconnected and wish to formally acknowledge as your own.
Do you have other options? Absolutely. A well-crafted will and powers of attorney may accomplish what you're trying to do without going through more drastic steps. However, there are many possible consequences to your decisions, so take the time to discuss your concerns -- and goals -- with an estate planning attorney.