Tragically, addiction is extremely common in Southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod, as it is throughout the country. For this reason, many of our clients are troubled about how they will provide for addicted loved ones in their estate plans. Whether your child or another relative is addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or some other form of destructive behavior, leaving the individual a large sum of money is worse than throwing it away — since such an action will no doubt fuel the addictive behavior.
At Surprenant & Beneski, we recommend the creation of an irrevocable trust designed to tackle this convoluted problem. The trust will allow funds to provide your loved one with necessities, and even indulgences, while keeping him or her from spending inherited assets on harmful activities. We will help you choose a trustee — a friend, family member, or financial institution — to follow your explicit directions in order to keep your child as safe and comfortable as possible.
Advantages a Trust Can Provide When Your Loved One Is Addicted
There are a great number of benefits to having our knowledgeable trust attorneys create a well-crafted trust for your addicted heir, including:
- Making sure your loved one is housed, fed, and clothed without putting money into her or his hands
- Incentivizing efforts at rehabilitation and attendance at support group meetings
- Not funding a relapse
- Designing the trust to withhold funds if the addict demands money, tries to manipulate, or threatens the trustee
- Arranging the trust so that supplemental funds to enrich your relative’s life are available, but only in nonmaterial ways, such as allowing the trustee to provide a paid vacation, a health club membership, transportation services, restaurant meals — intangibles that are prepaid and not objects cannot be sold for cash
- Structuring the trust so that no matter how clever your addicted child is (e.g. faking attendance at a 12-step meeting or cheating on a urine test), the trustee has the final say in distributing or denying perks at her or his discretion.
- Reinforcing healthy behavior through good times and bad, helping the addict to adhere to a therapeutic regimen since the NIH states that relapse is typically part of the treatment experience
Thoughts and Actions that Don’t Work with Addicted Loved Ones
Much as you may want the following to resolve issues of addiction, the majority of the time they are not helpful and may be dangerous:
- Believing that since the addict has gone through a period of sobriety, he or she is “cured” and can now be trusted with a large sum of money. In fact, receiving a generous gift is likely to trigger an episode of destructive spending or even an overdose (more common after a period of abstinence). It has to be remembered that recovery is a lifelong process and that bookies and drug dealers are cunning and ubiquitous predators.
- Thinking that giving money to another relative with a stipulation that the gift be used to support the addict is overly optimistic. For one thing, without legal protection, the relative you tap may be tempted to spend some of the reservoir on her-or-himself. For another, the relative may be pressured by the addict and eventually yield to hazardous demands. The relative you pick may even die, resulting in the money you intended to support your loved one passing to that relative’s beneficiaries.
- Deciding that disinheriting your addicted child is spiteful and misguided. Though it will keep your loved one from blowing through your assets, it won’t do anything to assist your child in overcoming addiction. On the contrary, the resulting rejection and alienation are likely to send your child into a tailspin and increase destructive behavior.
Our Experienced Trust Attorneys Are Here to Help –Contact Us Today
Being the parent of a child addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or compulsive shopping is difficult and painful. Let the skilled trust attorneys at Surprenant & Beneski give you the professional advice and compassionate support you need to plan your estate with loving concern and realistic expectations.