Woman Set Up Own Adoption to Get 'Dad's' Apartment: Report

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on May 07, 2013 1:31 PM

A New York woman is being called to task for allegedly setting up her adoption by an elderly man in order to get his rent-controlled apartment.

Pamela Becker, 62, was legally adopted by 85-year-old Nicholas DeTommaso in 2009. After DeTommasso died that year, Becker took over the lease to DeTommaso's flat in Queens. The monthly rent: just $100.

But last month, Becker was crestfallen to learn that the New York Division of Housing and Community Renewal had ruled that she was not entitled to the extremely cheap apartment, The New York Post reports.

Adult Adoption

Adopting adult children might sound off-putting, but it's perfectly legal.

In the long history of inherited wealth in this nation, adult adoption has most commonly been used to give non-relatives access to family money or to direct property and money away from blood relatives.

In the olden times for gays and lesbians (read: any time before now), devoted couples who could not marry or gain civil unions would adopt their partner in order to pass down assets after death.

Becker's case is a bit different, however, because it appears that DeTommaso, her adoptive father, may have been senile when he legally adopted her in 2009.

Power of Attorney

The deal-savvy Becker used her power of attorney over DeTomasso, gained in 2007, to get a legally finalized adoption.

Power of attorney can allow a person to act as an agent for another person who may lack capacity, and in the case of a general power of attorney, make decisions for that person in almost all matters. This can include:

  • Medical decisions.
  • Financial decisions. Agents can issue checks from another person's bank account and manage their finances too.
  • Business decisions. A general power of attorney allows an agent to make business decisions as if they were the business owner.
  • Legal decisions. This includes drafting wills, and in this case, adopting adult sexagenarian children.

Lines of Succession

It may sound like a the crux of a Shakespeare play or a "Game of Thrones" plot, but a family member cannot take over a rent-controlled apartment for a dead senior tenant unless she has lived there for at least a year prior to his death, according to New York law.

New York housing authorities claim Pamela Becker -- the daughter of a former U.S. diplomat and the sister of the mayor of Salt Lake City -- only resided in the apartment for 22 days before Nicholas DeTomasso died, so she is not entitled to his apartment.

Tough break, Becker.

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