The tragedy of drug addiction has hit every state, including Pennsylvania. With heroin and prescription painkillers increasingly responsible for addiction and overdose, few families are untouched by the issue. Watching an adult child become entangled with substance abuse is the worst nightmare of many parents, and it adds a new challenge to the already complex process of estate planning.
Parents who are writing their wills and preparing their estates may be conflicted about how to handle the child who is in the throes of addiction. Often, these parents have already spent untold amounts of money trying to help their child, whether through rehab programs or legal matters. Handing a lump sum of cash, such as an inheritance, to a child with a substance abuse problem can be a death sentence, but disinheriting the addicted child may offer the child little hope for recovery.
Many Pennsylvania parents include incentive trusts in their estate plans. These tools allow the parents to leave funds for the addicted child with certain stipulations or goals the child must meet before he or she can receive any of the money. For example, the child may have to successfully complete a treatment program or pass drug tests before getting any part of the inheritance. It is vital to have the appropriate trustee who is familiar with the manipulations that are part of the disease of addiction.
Because an incentive trust often deals with the private health issues of the child, the trustee may need access to certain health records. This means the parents will have to obtain from the child a waiver of confidentiality for that information. It will also be important that the child understand the terms of the trust to avoid disputes later. Seeking advice and guidance from an estate planning attorney can provide answers to the many questions parents may have about including trusts in their plans.