M~ is mentally retarded and receives SSI benefits based on disability. He was born
in 1956. M~'s natural parents are unknown and he has been in foster care or an institution
since he was one month old. Beginning around 1967, C~ and M2~ became M~'s foster parents.
On December XX, 1985, when M~ was 29 years old, the Probate Court of the County of
Oakland, Michigan, entered an "Order Terminating Parental Rights and Order for Adoption
of the Adult Adoptee," (Order) stating that C~ and Mrs. M2~ became the parents of
M~. The Order states that "[t]he mental and physical condition of the Adoptee is such
as to make the Adoptee a proper subject for adoption" and that the consent to the
adoption was "genuine and given by the person(s) having legal authority to sign the
consent." M~, C~, and M2~ have resided in Michigan at all times. C~ stated that adoption
was suggested by M~'s State of Michigan social worker to help get health insurance
benefits for M~ from C~' employer's group health plan.
In January 2001, C~ became entitled to and applied for Retirement Insurance Benefits.
On March XX, 2001, M~ applied for Disabled Child's Insurance Benefits. It is not contested
that M~ is unmarried and has always been disabled.
M~ is entitled to Title II child's benefits on C~' account so long as (1) he is C~'s
child; (2) he is dependent on C~; (3) he applies; (4) he is unmarried; and (5) as
an individual over the age of eighteen, he was under a disability that began prior
to age twenty-two. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350-404.368. A "child" includes an individual's
legally adopted child. 42 U.S.C. § 416(e); 20 C.F.R. § 404.356. An adoption is legal
if it complies with the adoption laws of the State where it took place and at least
one party to the adoption was domiciled or residing in that State at the time of the
adoption. POMS GN 00306.135; see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.356.
In Michigan, the entire subject of adoption is governed entirely by statute and proceedings
in probate court must strictly comply with the terms of the authorizing statute. Matter of Adams, 473 N.W.2d 712, 714 (Mich. Ct. App. 1991)(citing In re Milner's Estate, 36 N.W. 2d 914 (mich. 1949); In re L~, 128 N.W. 2d 475 (Mich. 1964)). Michigan's Adoption Code allows adults to be adopted
the same as minors. See Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§ 710.22 ("'Adoptee' means the individual who is to be adopted,
regardless of whether the individual is a child or an adult"), 710.24 (listing requirements
for petitions for adoption of "a child or an adult"), 710.60 (after entry of Order
of Adoption, there is no distinction between the rights of a natural child and the
rights of an adoptee; effect of adoption is no different for adult adoptees than minor
adoptees). The statutes give no exceptions that might disallow or discount the Order
of adoption in this case.
We found only one exception to the legal recognition of adult adoptees. Michigan courts
have held that, where the term "child" was used in a will, that term should be construed
to include an adopted adult child, unless there was an abuse of the adoption process
in order to obtain benefits under the will. Thurston v. Thurston, 363 N.W.2d 298, 300 (Mich. Ct. App. 1985) and In re Nowels Estate, 339 N.W.2d 861 (Mich. Ct. App. 1983). But see Mich. Comp. Laws Anno. § 700.2707 (April 2000)(clarifying circumstances under which
and adopted person may inherit, by virtue of the adoptive relationship, from someone
other than the adoptive parent). These cases, however, do not apply to the question
of whether M~ can qualify for child's insurance benefits, since the court's holdings
are limited to the context of donative transfers and since it is clear that the primary
purpose of M~'s adoption was to ensure health care benefits for M~ rather than to
allow M~ to take property under a will.
We have been unable to discover any past or current Michigan law that requires "intentions
of filing" for adoption prior to age 18 (as mentioned in the documentation of the
initial denial) to validate an adult adoption.
Michigan's law liberally allows adoption of adults. The effect of an adoption in Michigan
is the same whether the adoption took place when the adoptee was a minor or an adult.
M~ should be considered a child of C~ and M2~ and, so long as other requirements are
met, granted Child's Insurance Benefits as the disabled child or C~.
Thomas W. C~
Regional Chief Counsel
Assistant Regional Counsel