An addicted child can complicate your estate plan

Every day, 142 people in the United States die from drug overdoses. This may be your greatest fear if you have an adult child who struggles with opioid addiction. The opioid crisis is so widespread that many refer to it as an epidemic.

As you grow older, you may find it more and more difficult to make any plans for the future because of the uncertainty within your family. Family gatherings, vacations and retirement plans may be fraught with tension or go by the wayside altogether. You may also be wrestling with the choices you have for estate planning in light of the complication that one of your heirs has a drug addiction.

Estate planning options

Without a doubt, the addiction of one child has created conflict among your other children. They may feel resentful toward their sibling and lack understanding for your compassion toward him or her. Additionally, your own marriage may be at odds over how to deal with the addicted child. These are all matters to consider when creating an estate plan, and such a plan may be even more important to families in situations like yours.

Some of the alternatives you have for an estate plan when you have a child with substance abuse issues include the following:

  • Disinherit your addicted child: This may prevent your child from seeking treatment. It may also open your will to a contest that could drain the estate of its assets.
  • Reduce your addicted child's inheritance: Subtract the amount you estimate you have spent on this child already. Again, this has similar issues as disinheritance except that the child may now have some funds to contest the will.
  • Designate siblings to distribute the addicted child's portion: If the siblings are already in a strained relationship, this may further test the boundaries. Additionally, the addicted child's inheritance will become accessible to any creditors or financial judgments against the designated sibling, such as a divorce or bankruptcy.
  • Establish a discretionary trust: The child receives distributions from the inheritance when he or she meets the standards for health, education, maintenance and support.

Many estate planning advocates recommend a discretionary trust as the safest way to leave wealth to an addicted child. Because the four typical standards of health, education, maintenance and support are measured at the discretion of the trustee, it is wise to choose a trustee who can be objective, firm and compassionate. Your child will have to meet certain requirements and continue in a positive direction to obtain any assets from the trust.

While there is no perfect solution, and a discretionary trust is not a magic wand that promises recovery for your child, it could be the solution that brings you peace of mind and satisfy other members of your family who may have concerns about your estate planning options.

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