The Troubling Dilemma of Addiction: Estate Planning for Families of Loved Ones with Drug and Alcohol Problems

By: Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro, Esq.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence estimates that more than 50% of all adults have a family history of alcohol problems and that 8% of Americans over the age of 12 have used an illegal drug within the last 30 days. Drug and alcohol problems often affect a family’s emotional and financial resources, and greatly impact family dynamics. If an estate plan fails to take the problems of addiction into consideration, the plan may ultimately fail to achieve intended results.

Individuals who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction often face financial, psychological, and legal problems. Families are often forced to emotionally and financially support their loved ones who struggle with addiction and, in turn, raises the question the question as to how such support will be provided when they are no longer around. The decisions related to this problem often lead to family conflict. It is not uncommon for parents to have different objectives – one may want to cut off the child they have supported while the other parent wants to provide extra protection. Furthermore, other members of the family may be resentful towards the person who has received the extra support and those who have supported him/her.

Although many families may discuss disinheriting the child who is believed to have exhausted his/her fair share of resources, a common solution in resolving inheritance issues is to establish a trust. The hardest decision in establishing such a trust is often who will serve as trustee. While many families may prefer a family member to serve as trustee, because they may better understand the beneficiary’s needs, that person’s resentment may interfere with impartiality. On the other hand, while a corporate trustee may be impartial, they often have asset limitations and set higher management fees. Other considerations involve the terms of the trust. Families must examine the expenditure of funds for things such as counseling and drug testing and determine what distributions, if any, will be made during periods for which a beneficiary is using alcohol or drugs. Families may also want to consider monetary incentives for periods of sobriety.

Planning for families with loved ones suffering from substance abuse is complex and requires the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney. By creating a plan that takes present and potential circumstances into consideration, a family can best carryout their intended goals after death.

Kit Kat

Ask Kit Kat – Polar Bears in Summer

Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, what can you tell us about polar bears in the summer? Do they go into a state of semi-hibernation?

Kit Kat: Good question, but the latest research seems to suggest that they do not. In other words, polar bears do not show decreased appetite for food in summer. Dr. John P. Whiteman, a biologist at the University of Wyoming was the lead researcher in the study. This could be a concern, because summers are getting longer, and potentially their winter weight would not last as long to sustain them over an extended summer.

The study was conducted using the most up-to-date research methods in the area around the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska and Canada. It involved the use of helicopters and a US Coast Guard icebreaker to locate the bears, and then dart them with tranquilizers. Once tranquilized, the approximately 24 bears underwent a variety of procedures—devices in stomachs and rumps to record body temperature, neck collars to record activity levels, and the collection of blood and fur samples.. Never before has such a body of data been collected about polar bears.

The key finding is that polar bears, unlike other types of bears, do not have a reduced need for energy while hibernating. However, polar bears do have a way of reincorporating some chemicals in their body during the summer which may minimize the impact on their overall health of their yo-yo type of dieting which gorges during winter and drastically tapers off during the summer. More studies will follow as researchers wade though the mountains of data which have been collected. (James Gorman, “Polar Bears Don’t Go Into Hibernation-Like State in Summer, Researchers Say,” The New York Times (Science section), July 16, 2015)

Upcoming Seminars and Events

  • August 20, 2015 Andrew H. Hook will be speaking on Veterans Benefits at The Chesapeake Assisted Living Facility in Chesapeake, Virginia.
  • August 21, 2015 – Andrew H. Hook will be speaking to a group at DePaul Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia.
  • August 22, 2015 – Hook Law Center is sponsoring “Shred with a Purpose” to be held at our Virginia Beach office, 295 Bendix Road, from 9am until 12Noon.  Donations to the Alzheimer’s Association for the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” will also be accepted.  For more information, please call 757-399-7506 or click the following link to view the event flyer: Shred With A Purpose Flyer.
  • August 25 & 26, 2015 – Hook Law Center Seminar Series:  “My Father Has Been Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s…Now What?,” 8/25 @ 10am at Hilton Garden Inn, Harbour View in Suffolk and 8/26 @ 10am at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Virginia Beach.  Please visit www.hooklawcenter.com/seminars to register.
  • August 27, 2015 – Andrew H. Hook will be speaking to a group at Mary Immaculate Hospital in Newport News, Virginia.
  • September 9, 2015 – Andrew H. Hook will be speaking at a Virginia Continuing Legal Education seminar.
  • October 9, 2015 – Andrew H. Hook will be part of a panel discussion at the 2015 Art of Healthy Aging Forum & Expo on Friday, October 9, 2015, at the  Virginia Beach Convention Center, 100 19th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23451.  The forum & expo runs from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 until September 30th (limited seating). $25 at the doorTo register for this event, please click registration.
  • October 26, 2015Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro will be speaking at the National Business Institute’s seminar on The Probate Process from Start to Finish in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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