Can my stepmother adopt me while my birth mother is alive?

Dear Ms. Allison: My dad and stepmom are doing their new Wills. She wants to adopt me so there will be no problems with me being included in the inheritance. I have lived with them since I was 11, and now I am 19. My birth mother is not happy with this at all. Is there a legal way to have both moms? HC in Eastern Oklahoma.

Dear HC:

You are an adult and require no one’s permission to be adopted. So, if you want to be adopted by your stepmom, your birth mother actually has no say in the matter. However, I am sympathetic with your concerns, because you are in a sensitive situation. If you were a minor child, the adoption would require consent of your mom, but since you are an adult, you can do it as long as both you and your stepmom want it. In Oklahoma, you can inherit from both your stepmom who adopts you and your birth mother but different laws exist in other states. Your stepmom is kind to memorialize the relationship she feels with you. This only means you have two mothers who love you.  I would tell your mom it does not diminish your relationship with her for more people to love you.  

Regardless, I am not sure why you think you would be left out of any inheritance left to you by your stepmom. She can leave her assets to anyone she wishes as long as she includes her spouse. However, if she is the beneficiary of a Trust that goes to her children at her death, her action to adopt can be a way to include you in the gift and there would be no other way to accomplish that. Or perhaps, if you don’t get along with any stepbrothers or stepsisters, she might be trying to avoid disputes by doing the adoption to make it clear these are her wishes. Regardless, her choice is probably more emotionally than legally necessary.  However, it does offer some legal protection.  The only way you will not inherit from your adoptive mother or your birth mother for that matter, would be if they specifically disinherited you.  

I would be happy to be adopted if I were you. You can try to make your birth mother know that this is simply a manifestation of more love for you, and does not affect your legal or emotional relationship with her at all.  At the end of the day, she should want more people to love you and show it, rather than less.  You are a lucky child who will still have both moms.

There are many other ways to do an estate plan than just writing a Will. Your stepmom has other options and a knowledgeable estate planning attorney would explain those options and tailor an estate plan to specifically address her concerns — whether you are adopted or not.

In Oklahoma, there is no downside to being adopted as you describe. In other states, however, there could be disadvantages. For instance, it could put you on the hook for paying your stepmom’s potential nursing home care. Regardless, here, you can legally be the son of two moms who obviously care for you.

That’s your question, Asked and Answered, My best to you,

Gale Allison

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