Estate planning when your child is an addict

Making an estate plan is something you and your spouse have wanted to do for some time. You may have had definite ideas about how to distribute your assets among your adult children, and it may even be something you prepared for since they were young. However, like many families, you are hesitating, hoping things will get better.

If you have a son or daughter who is addicted to opioids, writing a will to distribute your assets presents a special set of concerns. Unfortunately, you are not alone. Millions of families across all socioeconomic groups have been touched by the opioid crisis leaving parents confused about how to prepare their estates.


There is likely enough stress in your life without playing out the consequences of each estate planning option. Knowing how addiction controls the impulses of your loved one, you may be leaning toward complete disinheritance of the child with the problem. After all, giving money to someone with a drug dependency is a recipe for disaster.

However, disinheritance may compel your addicted child to contest your will, which may create even more difficulties among your children. Leaving a smaller inheritance to your addicted child may still cause your child to contest this decision with the added complication of having the funds to pay for litigation as well as supply the addiction.

Which option works for your situation?

Some parents designate the siblings to distribute funds to the addicted child. Leaving your children to be responsible for their sibling's inheritance and wellbeing may add even more strain to an already tense relationship. Additionally, there is always the chance that the child holding the funds will meet with financial hardships that place the inheritance at risk. A bankruptcy, divorce or other misfortune may result in the loss of the funds meant for your addicted child.

Rather than leaving a sibling to manage the funds, a more efficient choice may be the use of a discretionary trust. With a purely discretionary trust, the trustee makes the decisions about when it is appropriate to distribute or withhold funds. Some of the challenges you may face include the following:

  • Convincing your loved one to consent to the terms of the trust
  • Obtaining your loved one's authorization to release private medical information to the trustee, including drug test results and addiction counseling reports
  • Selecting a trustee who has experience in discretionary trusts for addicted beneficiaries

In some cases, a family assigns a trust advisor to assist the trustee in making decisions regarding the distribution of the funds. You may also be able to find an addiction specialist to act as an advisor to your trustee. An Arizona attorney with experience in a variety of trust options can guide you in the options that are best for your family.

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