Estate Planning for Parents with Drug and Alcohol Addicted Children

One reason people “put off” estate planning is because of the difficult decisions that need to be made when families have a child that is addicted to drugs or alcohol. The decision to provide for an addicted child can be difficult both mentally and emotionally. Most parents do not want to disown their child completely. However, as responsible parents, you likely do not want to hand an addicted child a lump sum of money and potentially enable him or her to worsen their addiction.

Taking steps to create an estate plan that considers and accounts for your child’s addiction can prevent them from receiving a lump sum of funds while they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Fortunately, there are estate planning tools, such as our Opioid Crisis Trust, which can help you to leave your assets to your child without giving them assets they could use to harm themselves.

Disinheritance: It’s NOT the Only Option
Many believe disinheritance is the only option one has with an addicted child. Even if you are completely estranged from your child, you still care for them deeply and yearn for them to heal. As my wise mother always says: “No matter what they do, they’ll always be your babies. You might not like what they are doing, but you’ll never stop loving them.”

Disinheritance is the process of removing a person from your will or estate plan so that if you die, they receive nothing. While disinheritance may be the best option in certain situations, the only way to change your mind is to rewrite your will. If you choose disinheritance, having a lawyer is essential to ensure that the appropriate language is contained in your will to reduce the risk of a contest by the disinherited child.

Disinheritance is most often used when there are multiple potential beneficiaries, such as other children, and often with the intent that the sibling give some of the estate once the addict is back on his or her feet. However, this may or may not work out depending on family dynamics.

Fortunately, there are alternatives available to complete disinheritance which give families flexibility when dealing with an addicted child.

Using an Opioid Crisis Trust for Addicted Children
An Opioid Crisis Trust is a combination spendthrift trust and incentive trust. The lawyers at Charlton Law have carefully crafted the Opioid Crisis Trust to create flexibility in estate planning in a variety of situations. The Opioid Crisis Trust can be crafted to meet your family’s specific needs and unique circumstances. No Opioid Crisis Trust will be exactly the same, because no two families’ dynamics and situations will be exactly the same.

At its most basic, the spendthrift provisions of the Opioid Crisis Trust enables you to put spending authority in the hands of a trustee, or a trusted person who will control the reckless spending of your child. This can prevent them from wasting funds and can prevent them from using funds to purchase drugs.

Spendthrift clauses in trusts are also valuable because you can use them to provide necessary funds such as child support, alimony, food, and shelter to the beneficiary, without allowing them to spend anything else. This enables you to offer support, even after you are deceased. Finally, spendthrift clauses typically protect the funds in the estate from creditors. So long as the funds are in the trust, creditors cannot reach them.

Additionally, in certain situations, a discretionary spendthrift supplementary needs trust may be utilized, which enables your child to qualify for needs-based government benefits (SSI, Medicaid, housing, SNAP, etc.), while offering the other benefits of the trust.

An incentive or conditional trust is one in which assets and/or funds are made available to the beneficiary only after they have completed certain requirements. With an addicted child, you can set requirements such as:

  • The beneficiary will not receive funds until they have completed rehab and have remained clean or sober for set specified period of time (1 year, 2 years, 5 years, etc.)
  • Frequent and periodic drug testing
  • Providing proof of ongoing treatment

Since incentive trusts distribute funds based on reaching certain milestones and goals, you can set continuous and progressive milestones to help ensure that your child stays clean or sober while they receive the funds. The Opioid Crisis Trust can take into consideration:

  • Relapses by the addicted child
  • Disposition of the funds in situations where the addicted child has children of their own
  • Disposition of the funds if your child has a wayward spouse.

The bottom line with the Opioid Crisis Trust is that there are options that create flexibility when dealing with an addicted child. If you would like more information or would like to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys, contact us or call 724-540-1161.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for general guidance on the subject matter only. The application and impact of laws can vary widely on the specific facts involved. You should contact an attorney to discuss your specific situation as it applies to you. Accordingly, the information provided in this article is provided with the understanding that the authors and publishers are not herein engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice and services.

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