Representing Families Struggling with Addiction
For families with a history of drug abuse and addiction, it is crucial to consider addiction issues when creating an Estate Plan.
The struggle and hardship of having a child addicted to drugs and/or alcohol is never-ending. Upon your death, what are you to do with your money? If a child has a history of drug abuse, should you cut the child off (disinherit) and make a hard life even harder? Should you reward them for bad behavior or motivate good behavior? Will your estate fund habits that can lead to their death?
Taking a balanced approach when creating an estate plan can help you address your family’s challenges. People are reluctant to leave money for someone who will use it to feed their destructive and deadly habits. The fear of providing the money that will lead to a person’s continuing destruction or death is justified, which is why you should consult with an attorney to discuss the estate planning tools that are available for you.
Trusts can be used so that a troubled child will only receive money after your death if:
- You decide what is in your family’s best interest.
- You decide which plan of distribution, if any, to implement to assist your troubled child.
- You will have an Estate Plan that still addresses the more typical needs of protecting your assets.
By creating a trust, you can help influence a child’s behavior and actions. Ultimately, you control when and if money will be available.
What Can Be Done If My Child Has an Addiction?
- Sober Trust: The money is available only if a child is sober. This can include independent testing to confirm the health of a child.
- Goal Trust: Trusts that permit the release of funds (all or a portion) when certain goals are reached. Goals-based upon accomplishments relating to employment, school, health, raising children, paying debts, etc. can result in the release of funds.
- Scheduled Distributions: Specific amounts can be released at specific times. For example, you can allocate a certain amount every month to pay rent. An automatic disbursement is paid to the child regardless of circumstances.
- Allowance Trust: A Trustee has the discretion to release funds as the Trustee finds appropriate. You don’t have to try to predict the future when you have a Trustee that you have confidence in. A Trustee can make decisions in the future based upon what is happening instead of what was expected.
- Disinherit the Child: Disinheriting a child is usually the least desirable option. A parent is free to disinherit a child. Parents can disinherit a child and leave money for that child’s children instead. Disinheritance can sometimes be the safest plan.
Some of the above Trusts have the same effect if a child fails to maintain their sobriety or meet the goals described in the Trust. The Trusts described above gives the child one last chance to behave or act in an acceptable manner.
How Can a Trust Help My Child Beat Addiction?
- Motivation: A properly crafted Trust can be used as a tool to motivate abstinence and recovery. A well-designed Trust can be used to help the individual and not contribute to his/her destructive behavior.
- Success: If your child struggles with this issue, success of any kind needs to be valued and rewarded. The tipping point to success is elusive and all available leverage needs to be used.
- Control: Family members can determine when and under what circumstances the addicted loved one will obtain distributions. In addition, they can establish certain provisions to prevent the trustee or beneficiary from obtaining funds and using them to support their addiction.
The following are common provisions to include in such trusts:
- Monitored alcohol or drug testing (whether random or periodic).
- Being employed for a certain period.
- Finishing school or maintaining a specific grade point average.
- Completing a certain number of drug-counseling hours.
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