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Estate planning and addiction

Estate planning can be especially problematic for some families who are dealing with a child suffering from an addiction. Whether due to alcohol or drugs, the presence of an individual with an addiction can make the reality of estate planning even more off-putting for many people. They know they will have to confront a situation they may prefer to avoid. They may be worried that a child suffering from an addiction could waste assets, or worse, spend them on feeding their habit.

As painful as it may be to face the difficult truth, the situation could be far worse if they do nothing and allow distributions to be made to a child trapped by an addiction by the intestate succession laws of Ohio. The better course of action would be the creation of a trust with controlled distributions to the child or family member with substance abuse or dependencies.

With a trust, the distributions could be conditioned upon various requirements, such as successful drug tests or left to the discretion of a named trustee. It is important to remember that while you may be inclined to provide equal shares to your children, you do not need to provide that share in exactly the same manner.

The trustee can limit the distributions according to instructions in the trust and can protect the assets of the trust from being wasted by a child in grips of addiction. If a trust for a child with an addiction is estabilshed, you may want a trustee who is able to distance himself or herself from the situation.

If a sibling is made trustee, it could be difficult for them to exercise proper discretion, as they may be susceptible to the addicted sibling's manipulaton or conversely, it could lead to conflict, as the addicted sibling may feel unfairly subordinated to the sibling-trustee. A corporate or institutional trustee may be a safer choice.

Dealing with addiction is difficult no matter the situation, but your estate planning attorney can explain the various options and help you determine how to best set up such trusts in your specific circumstance.

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