In spirit or in truth: adult adoptions and estate planning
From the desk of Attorney Alcendor…
During the recent holiday season, I noticed an uptick on social media involving stepchildren making the heartfelt decision to ask their stepparents to adopt them. (Check out one of the stories below!).
In Michigan, an adult can become the legal parent of another adult. These adoptions only require the consent of the parties. With such a significant decision, I wonder if people consider the legal consequences; specifically, if any consideration is given to probate and estate planning matters. It is important that adoptive parents make careful consideration of their current estate plans and consult an attorney, whether they intend on including the newly adopted child in the disposition of property or even appointment as their personal representative.
The situation becomes more precarious if the adoptive parents do not have an estate plan. If this is the case, Michigan’s laws of intestate succession would come in to play. Legally adopted children are included and would receive property. However, if the “adoption” was simply a name change, reference to the adoptee as your child, occurred during religious ceremony or any other action short of a court order; it does not qualify as a legal adoption and the “adopted adult” would receive no inheritance.
On the other hand, the intended adoptee should also discuss the matter with his/her biological parents to make sure the adoption does not result in disinheritance under the biological parent’s estate plan or insurance beneficiary designations.
Needless to say, the decision to adopt is very important and should be driven by both an emotional connection amongst the parties but also a careful consideration of legal consequences-including probate and estate planning, tax and insurance matters. As with all legal matters, a competent attorney should be consulted throughout the process.
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