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A child's addiction complicates your estate plan

There are probably few in Texas who are not aware that the nation is in the midst of a substance abuse epidemic. Some studies show that 142 people suffer from a fatal overdose each day, and countless others struggle with their addiction. Of course, the sorrows and pain of addiction affect more than just the person with the addiction. Families and loved ones frequently suffer along with the addict.

Perhaps you are one of those parents who have gone through many dark times with a son or daughter's addiction. Now, as you prepare to create your estate plan, you have a difficult decision to make about how to distribute your assets appropriately and fairly.

Using caution in your plan

Undoubtedly, your addicted child has placed a strain on your family. Perhaps you have spent untold dollars on your child's efforts at sobriety, and maybe you even faced the devastation of having your child steal from you to support his or her habit. If you have other children, you may deal with their impatience and bitterness at the stress their sibling places on the family.

You may have dreamed of leaving your hard-earned assets in equal portions to your children. However, an outright inheritance can be nothing short of a death sentence for an addict who may wish to spend the money on drugs. Still, there are drawbacks to many other options, for example:

  • Disinheriting your addicted child may result in a probate dispute that could drain your estate and further divide your children from each other.
  • Assigning siblings to distribute funds to the addicted child carries the risk that your already embittered children will fail to follow your wishes. It also runs the risk that your assets will become the target of the sibling's creditors.
  • Leaving a smaller portion of the estate to your troubled child not only provides funds for your child's deadly habit but may also finance your child's challenge of the estate plan.

Perhaps the wisest option for addressing your addicted child in your estate plan is to consider a discretionary trust. Through the trust, you set standards that your child must meet in order to obtain any funds from the inheritance. For example, you could stipulate completing rehabilitation, maintaining good health and obtaining ongoing support for sobriety.

The challenge with using a discretionary trust is finding a trustee with experience in handling heirs with addiction issues. Creating a trust, gaining consent from your child and naming a trustee are not steps you need to take alone. A skilled attorney can provide guidance in all areas of estate planning.

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