Given the millions of Americans addicted to opiates and other drugs, many parents and grandparents struggle with the question of estate planning for addicted family members. But in a realm where families have very little control over a loved one's actions, estate planning provides one area of control.
Having experienced an addict's loss of jobs and homes, uncontrollable fixation on drugs, and perhaps his or her criminal activity as well as the addict's vulnerability and helplessness, parents and grandparents may believe their best option is to disinherit their addicted family member. However, there are much better options that can provide for the addict's basic needs while protecting the transferred assets from being thrown away on the addiction.
Estate Planning for Addicted Family Members: Care for Loved Ones with Protection of Assets
For the 12-month period ending January 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted 71,568 deaths in the U.S. from opioid overdose, an increase of six percent nationwide. The need for opioid addiction treatment is great and largely unmet.
According to a 2012 study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 2.1 million Americans are addicted to opioid pain relievers, and 467,000 are addicted to heroin. Because of the survey design, these estimates exclude opioid-addicted patients with prescriptions for pain. The misuse of and addiction to opioids, including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, is a serious national crisis that costs the United States an estimated $78.5 billion a year.
Federal, state, and local governments; the criminal justice system; and the health care system struggle to deal with the many societal ills accompanying this swarm of addicts. Millions of families with an addicted loved one in their midst also struggle. The anxiety, the expense of failed treatments, and the utter lack of anywhere to turn for help can reduce even the most competent and caring parents and grandparents to despair.
But there is one thing parents and grandparents still have power over: the disposal of their assets through estate planning.
Estate Planning for Addicted Family Members: The Opioid Trust or Spendthrift Trust for Addiction
Some people read the words "trust fund" and immediately assume that trusts are used only by the very wealthy. However, the trust is a common and useful legal tool for controlling access to assets of all amounts, even limited assets. It could be the ideal tool to help with estate planning for addicted family members.
In this era of addiction, specialized lawyers and law firms are crafting and shaping trusts to deal with the specific issues confronting the parents and grandparents of addicts: how to provide for a loved one's basic needs, while still protecting the funds from waste due to addiction. In some cases, families also want the addict to be able to access public health services, which are in the front line of treatment, without being disqualified due to possession of assets. Or, in a "tough love" situation, the parents wish to provide for the child only when he or she is ready to enter treatment.
The opioid trust is a type of spendthrift trust vehicle that addresses these issues, limiting the addict's access to the trust resources to particular purposes, such as housing and food, and protecting the trust assets from transfer by the addict for his or her short-term need for a fix. Alternatively, the trust can provide funds for the addict's treatment and recovery, or for a combination of the above.
Parents in Control: Providing Care Without "Enabling"
Asset protection and addiction may seem like two terms in contradiction, but with trusts and other estate planning vehicles, caring parents can ensure that their hard-earned wealth does not become a drug pipeline for an addicted child.
Parents of addicts already know that they cannot force their child to accept treatment, but that does not mean that parents should just go with the flow of their child's addiction. Parents have the power and control in the disposition of their assets to dictate how those assets may be used.
Anxiety over an addicted family member has torn many families apart. But most families can agree that providing a source of funds for basic needs and/or treatment for their family member is a disposition of funds they can live with.
Estate Planning for Addicted Family Members in WV: Establishing an Opioid Trust
Take control over the one aspect of addiction that you can control: the disposition of your assets. If you are a parent or grandparent contemplating estate planning for addicted family members in West Virginia (WV), contact estate planning attorney Anna M. Price at Jenkins Fenstermaker, PLLC. You can reach Anna via her online contact form or by telephone at (304) 523-2100 or toll free at (866) 617-4736.