How to help an addicted family member without feeding the addiction

Estate planning clients sometimes will say that they don’t want to provide for a close family member. Occasionally it is because the family member was very successful. More frequently, it indicates a problem, such as an addiction issue or a chemical or alcohol dependence.

While discussing goals for his plan, “Joe” said he wanted to disinherit a brother. It turned out the brother was in the grip of an addiction, and could not keep a steady home or job.

Joe wanted to provide for the care of his brother, but felt that his brother would not be able to handle money, and would waste anything he received. Joe did not want to see money he had worked hard for go to fuel his brother’s addiction.

In Joe’s case, estate planning presents an opportunity to help an addicted relative by setting aside funds in a support trust. Joe discovered he could help his brother, without his brother having to touch the money.

Such a trust has specific provisions governing how and when funds can be used, and appoints a trustee to oversee them and pay the doctors, service providers, and caretakers directly.

A support trust can be used for counseling, treatment, rehabilitation or care of the beneficiary. However, during periods of current or recent substance use or dependence, the funds can also be withheld to prevent the beneficiary from dissipating them, or can be restricted to specific expenses.

For people like Joe, dealing with the burden of an addicted family member is tough. Being able to help, and being confident that the resources will not feed the addiction, can help address that pain.