Like many families, yours may be watching with sorrow as one member struggles with addiction. The opioid epidemic knows no boundaries, and families from every corner of society have felt the impact of its control on the lives of loved ones. While many deal with feelings of shame and guilt, you may be among those who are also looking for a way to protect the rest of your family from the devastating effects of a sibling's addiction.
If you have resolved to make your estate plan, you may be hesitating because you are uncertain how to navigate your loved one's substance abuse. This conflict is becoming more common, and a skilled and experienced attorney can counsel you on some alternatives for your unique situation. However, you may wish to know how some options have played out in similar circumstances.
Avoid a critical mistake
Your child's substance abuse is likely creating an unhappy atmosphere within your family. You may live in fear of your child's manipulative, unpredictable and potentially violent behavior. You may find yourself at odds with your spouse or other children about how to handle the situation. In fact, your marriage may be in peril and your other children resentful because of the shadow the addiction has cast over the family. This tension makes it difficult to make decisions that directly involve your loved ones, including your estate plan.
There are several clear options, each with pros and cons. You may have a better understanding of each after discussing them with your attorney. Some examples include:
- Disinheriting your addicted child: The drawbacks of this option include leaving your child without the resources to seek treatment and leaving the estate open to costly litigation if your child contests the will.
- Leaving your addicted child a smaller inheritance than his or her siblings: The chances of a will contest increase if your child has the funds from an inheritance. There is also the obvious issue of handing money to an addict.
- Designating the siblings to manage and distribute your addicted child's portion of the estate: This option has so many risks -- including the vulnerability of the funds to the siblings' creditors and the outright refusal of the siblings to honor your wishes -- that most advisors would not recommend it.
- Establishing a discretionary trust for the addicted child's portion of the inheritance: This trust gives the trustee complete control over the most appropriate times to distribute and withhold funds from your child. The most serious drawback to this plan is finding a suitable trustee who is willing to deal with a beneficiary who has an addiction.
Your most difficult task may be overcoming your emotions to make a reasonable and viable decision. The experience of a California estate-planning attorney will benefit you as you make your plans in these difficult circumstances.