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  • Writer's pictureKathy L. McNair, Esq.

4 Tips for Estate Planning If You Worry About a Child Struggling With Addiction or Gambling

Watching your child struggle is heartbreaking. Although it can be difficult, it is important that you let your attorney know about any concerns when discussing your estate planning. If your child is struggling with substance abuse, addiction, gambling, a serious debt problem, or a difficult marriage, there are special considerations when thinking about your estate plan. Here are five tips:

1. Preserve disability benefits. If your child is diagnosed with a disability or receives public benefits, a Supplemental Needs Trust allows you to provide for him/her without affecting his or her eligibility for governmental benefits such as SSI, Medicaid, subsidized housing or food stamps. The assets in the trust can be used to meet needs that are not otherwise paid for by the public benefits. These trusts are helpful in providing the beneficiary with social/recreational services, transportation, legal services, household items/maintenance, travel and leisure activities, and personal items/services, etc. For more information on this topic, see our prior blog post .

2. Prevent enabling an addiction. If you have a child with an addiction, you should avoid leaving money outright to that child. Otherwise, the money you leave may fuel the addiction. Instead, a parent in this situation can create a trust to provide for the child. A trustee (a trusted friend, relative, or attorney) can be appointed to manage the money, and decide the amount and frequency of distributions. They can also make direct payments for expenses. If the child is able to overcome the addiction or meet certain conditions, you can give the the trustee discretion to terminate the trust.

3. Concerns of Bankruptcy or Reckless Spending. If your child (or perhaps their spouse) spends money recklessly and may be at risk of bankruptcy, a trust is necessary to prevent the inheritance from being taken by the bankruptcy court. If your child is a reckless spender, you cannot control what happens to the money you leave. For this reason, you can utilize a trust, to set the terms and conditions for distributing the assets.

4. Ensure your child does not inherit. If you decide to disinherit your child, your estate planning documents should include specific language intentionally excluding the child. If you have any concerns about privacy, a trust is recommended.

As an Estate Planning attorney in the Boston area for over twenty years, I have worked with many parents concerned about their adult children. Please don’t be embarrassed to discuss your concerns. If you have an estate plan in place, that does not address your concerns, you should act as soon as possible to make changes. If things improve in the future, you can always change your plan. This situation is much more common than you may think and it is best to act now to ensure that your interest and the interest of your child are protected for the future.

We are here to help. If you are ready to take the next step, please call our office at 617-489-5900 or schedule a brief free consultation or by clicking:

Senior Solutions, Attorneys at Law, is an Estate Planning and Elder Law firm, serving the Greater Boston, Massachusetts area, since 2001. We are ready to help you with Medicaid Planning, Estate Planning, Probate, Guardianship & Conservatorships, Special Needs Trusts, and Fiduciary Services.

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