Estate Planning for Dealing with Addiction
Do you have a child or other loved one who is an addict, whether the addiction is to drugs, gambling or alcohol? Do you struggle with the thought of what will happen to your addicted child or loved one after you pass away? Planning for families with loved ones suffering from addiction is complex and requires the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney. The Law Office of James C. Siebert & Associates, P.C. /Elder Law & Estate Planning Attorneys of Illinois, P.C. has experience in developing Estate Plans and Addiction Trusts and can assist you with your needs. By creating a carefully tailored Estate Plan that takes present and potential circumstances into consideration, you can achieve your goals of providing your addicted loved one with a safety net without feeding their addiction. Call the Law Office of James C. Siebert & Associates, P.C. /Elder Law & Estate Planning Attorneys of Illinois, P.C. at (847)253-7500 today to schedule an appointment with an experienced Estate Planning Attorney.
In developing a plan, it is important that the family and the attorney understand the dynamics of the addictive behavior. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence estimates that more than 50% of all adults have a family history of alcohol problems and that 8% of Americans over the age of 12 have used an illegal drug within the last 30 days. The truth, which we know from decades of careful research, is that addiction is a chronic disease. Relapse is not a failure but instead a common part of recovery from addiction. The truth is that many recovering addicts have one or more relapses: Up to 60% of patients who receive substance abuse treatment will relapse within one year, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. What’s most important to understand is that recovery is a lifelong healing process.
There are some common mistakes made in planning for an addicted loved one, including:
Outright Gifts. The last thing you want to do is to provide your addicted loved one with a lump sum cash inheritance. This could lead to disastrous results, including a squandered inheritance or worse, you could unknowingly be contributing to your child’s unhealthy lifestyle. If the individual is addicted to certain hard drugs, receipt of a sum of money might even result in them buying too much of the substance resulting in overdose and death. Even if the addicted individual is not currently engaged in the addictive behavior, the receipt of a large sum of money may trigger a relapse. Whether it is the drug dealer or the bookie, those individuals who prey on the addicted will undoubtedly become aware of your loved one’s inheritance and will do everything they can to influence them to feed the addiction.
Gifts to other family members. Gifts to other family members for benefit of the addicted individual also are bound to fail. The first issue is whether that individual will use the money for the addicted individual. Even if they do, what happens if that individual dies? It is also unfair to that family member, as having to deal with an addicted individual who wants” their money” is asking a lot, especially if the addict shows up at 3:00 am.
Disinherit the Child. Although many families may discuss disinheriting the addicted love one, this is not an effective strategy if your goals are to protect your loved one and to foster recovery from the addition. The addicted loved one who is specifically disinherited is likely to feel hurt and ashamed, and it may result in further alienated from the family, the very people most likely to provide emotional, moral and perhaps financial support in any attempts at recovery. While disinheriting the individual may prevent them from using the inheritance to further the addictive behavior, it does not help, and in fact may be detrimental, to achieving your goals and desires.
THE ADDICTION TRUST
The Addiction Trust is a type of incentive Trust designed to make sure that your loved one always has minimal living provided, so they don’t end up homeless and on the street, while allowing your loved one to receive greater benefit from the Trust if they keep their addictive behavior under control. The Addiction Trust is worded in such a way as not to be unduly burdensome or punitive to the addicted loved one, but rather to provide a financial incentive to seek out assistance, if they have not done so already, and also to ensure that sobriety and recovery is maintained.
The Addiction Trust includes, but is not limited to, the following provisions:
- It requires the addicted individual to submit to random testing, no less than annually, to determine whether they are then actively engaging in the addictive behavior.
- While the addicted individual is not actively engaged in the addictive behavior the Trustee can pay for many additional services or things which will increase the quality of the addictive individual’s life.
- The Trustee may never make cash distributions to the Addicted Individual, and shall use all reasonable means from buying anything which the Addicted Individual could convert into cash to further his or her addiction.
- It has a third party corporate Trustee to handle the Trust Administration, where the Trust Company has experience dealing with individuals with disabilities and arranging and working with third party services to address the addicted individuals needs. Unlike a family member Trustee, the professional Trust is not subject to emotional and unreasonable demands by the addicted individual, thus allowing for better management of the Trust while avoiding conflict issues within your family. By appointing a family member to act as trustee, there is potential for converting a loving and supportive relationship into something that could quickly turn bitter or adversarial.
- It has a harassment provision which is designed to penalize the addicted individual from causing problems with the Trustee, any third-party service provider.
- It provides for the payment of rehabilitative or treatment programs.
At the end of the day, individuals suffering from addiction need to find the ability within themselves to surrender to the fact that they are suffering from a disease and to seek treatment. The financial incentives and the availability of funds offered under the Addiction Trust can remove one major hurdle that might prevent an individual from seeking such assistance. The Law Office of James C. Siebert & Associates, P.C. /Elder Law & Estate Planning Attorneys of Illinois, P.C. has developed a specialized stand alone Trust for an Addicted individual which can be incorporated into your overall Estate Plan.
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