A Trust for the Child You Cannot Trust

Your heart is broken. Your child has inherited the addiction gene you have always suspected runs in your family. After the usual round of denial, “why us?” and self-blame, you settle down to the strong probability that your child may never be cured. With this fact dominating your thoughts, how do you plan for this child in your will? If you leave him a bundle of cash, he will probably spend it on drugs, alcohol, gambling or alarming amounts of food. The inheritance will be gone in no time at all.  What to do?  Do you disinherit this child? Nobody I know really wants to do that. So, how do you care for your child when you are gone?

You’ve taken the first step by coming to the office of Albert G. Hehr III because I know your child has an inherited disease called addiction, and, guaranteed, he will never be stigmatized in this office.

The best way to care for your addicted child is with a trust with special-needs language. With a trust, you can protect and provide for your loved one. You can avoid probate, minimize taxes, and ensure that the intended beneficiaries are named receiving what you want them to receive when you want them to receive it to be assured that it is used for what is appropriate. I recommend including language that will help the trustee to deal with the good and the bad with incentives for the child to reach certain goals in order to receive distributions from the trust. A sample incentive would be for the child to stay sober (as evidenced in a mandatory blood test), and/or to attend a specific amount of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), GA (Gamblers Anonymous) or FA (Food Addicts In Recovery Anonymous) meetings per week.

When the decision to establish a trust has been made, the next step is to choose the trustee. This individual should rarely be a sibling or a member of the family who needs to sustain a relationship of love and support rather than run the risk of being looked upon as a dictator or a taskmaster.

I am in complete agreement with Jesse C. Beier who has stated that the best option would be “to appoint a person or corporate trustee (often a bank or trust company). While independent fiduciaries and corporate trustees charge a fee for their services (typically around one percent of the trust’s assets), in most cases, the benefit far outweighs the cost……”

In addition to creating a trust, I recommend having the addicted child, over the age of 18, execute a healthcare power of attorney, Living Will and HIPPA release. This way, you have the legal authority to speak with doctors and other healthcare professionals who are involved with your child’s health. At any time, your child can revoke the documents, but having them there at first is better than not having them at all.

Estate planning that is carefully thought out and executed is the only way to protect your addicted child in the future. I want to help you. Please call 216-831-0042 to speak to me, Al Hehr, at Meyers Roman Friedberg & Lewis.