People with Addictions and Estate Planning

May 23, 2018

Drug Add­iction

Do you have a child or loved one who struggles with addiction? Addiction often results from drug or alcohol abuse and can be devastating for family members. A class of drugs that is recently impacting the nation is opioids. These drugs include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and many others. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) every day, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. This harsh reality can make any parent worry about their struggling child or loved one. But, there is something you can do about it. By creating a carefully tailored Estate Plan that takes present and potential circumstances into consideration, you can achieve your goals of providing your loved one with a safety net without feeding their addiction.

Common Mistakes

Outright Gifts

The least helpful thing you can do is to provide your addicted loved one with a lump sum of cash inheritance.  This could lead to disaster, including a squandered inheritance or worse, you could unknowingly be feeding your child’s addiction.  If the individual is addicted to certain drugs, receipt of a sum of money might result in them purchasing excessive amounts of the substance resulting in overdose and death.  Even if the addicted person is not currently engaged in the addictive behavior, the receipt of a large sum of money may trigger a relapse.

Disinherit the Child

Many families discuss disinheriting the addicted love one. However, this is not an effective strategy if your goals are to protect your loved one and to encourage recovery from the addiction.  The addicted loved one who is specifically disinherited is likely to feel hurt and ashamed. While disinheriting the individual may prevent them from using the inheritance to further the addictive behavior, it does not help, and in fact may have negative consequences.

Practical Solutions

Create a Trust with special language that limits the monthly distribution amount or sets other limits

  • Limit monthly distribution amounts that go directly to the addicted individual
  • Pay for the addicted individual’s cost of living directly from the Trust (i.e. trust pays the landlord, FPL, cable bill directly)
  • Remove the health, education, maintenance and support (HEMS) clause to limit the Trustee’s discretion
  • Remove the language allowing the addict to appoint successor trustees, instead have those selections made beforehand in the Trust
  • Leave their share to be managed by a trustworthy sibling or family member

Ultimately, people suffering from addiction need to find the strength to admit they are suffering from a disease and seek treatment. This can be achieved in different ways and families should explore a range of options to determine what is best for them. Mental health professionals, spiritual counselors, and family members should all be involved with providing support for the addicted individual. Additionally, planning for when you will no longer be able to help your loved one yourself is a practical way to ensure their basic needs are being met without giving them an opportunity to feed their addiction.

Contact OC Estate and Elder Law at (954) 251-0332 or to learn more about effective estate planning.