Woman updating her estate plan

Addressing Substance Abuse in an Estate Plan

Estate planning is a great way to ensure that your beneficiaries are cared for after you are gone.  However, some loved ones may not be in a position to responsibly handle a large inheritance—particularly those loved ones who struggle with substance abuse problems. Fortunately, there are estate planning options available for families dealing with substance abuse. In this article, we discuss how to address substance abuse in an estate plan. 

Appoint a Responsible Trustee

A person who creates a trust usually appoints a family member or close friend to serve as trustee.   However, serving as trustee can be complicated. Therefore, when creating a trust, it is important to appoint a trustee who is responsible and of sound mind. Typically, this means that you shouldn’t appoint a family member or friend with a substance abuse problem to serve in this role. If you appoint a person with substance abuse issues to serve as trustee, you risk creating a variety of problems down the line. 

Establish Sobriety Conditions 

Although it is important to take additional measures during the estate planning process to address substance abuse issues, this doesn’t mean that you should automatically exclude substance abusers from receiving benefits. In fact, the estate planning process can be used to incentivize sobriety in beneficiaries. Specifically, when creating an estate plan, you can provide the trustee with instructions that detail how and when assets are distributed. As part of these instructions, you can put conditions in place requiring certain beneficiaries to remain clean and sober to receive benefit distributions. 

Address Drug Testing and Rehabilitation 

Another way to address substance abuse issues with an estate plan is to withhold the distribution of benefits until a clean drug test is provided. In addition, should the beneficiary fail such a screening, then you may include a clause in your trust that requires him or her to attend rehabilitation. If the beneficiary opts to attend rehab, then you can give the trustee the discretion to release benefits to pay for treatment. You may also provide the trustee with the discretion to determine when and how the beneficiary will receive benefits upon completing rehabilitation. There are multiple ways to accomplish this, such as requiring continued substance abuse testing and routine physical examinations. Ultimately, if your goal is to prevent a beneficiary with substance abuse issues from receiving a large monetary distribution, then this can be achieved by working with an experienced attorney. 

Contact a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer 

If you have a loved one who struggles with substance abuse, the Law Office of Angela Siegel can help you ensure that he or she is responsibly accounted for in your estate plan. When you come to us for assistance, experienced estate planning lawyer Angela Siegel will work with you to create an estate plan that will protect you and your family for years to come. Please contact us to schedule an initial consultation with our experienced Florida estate planning lawyer