Estate Planning for Families Facing Addiction

Addiction is a serious illness that effects millions of families. Over 7,000 people died from overdose in Florida in 2020, the second most of any state (Statistics from Riverside Recovery, Tampa). Aside from illicit drug use, addictions to gambling, alcohol, or prescription medications can be just as dangerous and no less destructive in the lives of those who struggle with them and their families.

Our natural instinct is to care for our family and loved ones as best we can for as long as we can. For families facing struggles with addiction, Estate Planning can often be more complex than for those without. In many cases, families want to avoid the unsupervised transfer of large lump sums of cash or valuable assets, which can have the potential of doing more harm than good in the beneficiaries’ life. 

Families who struggle with a loved one’s addiction know the potential dangers of temptations that can come with having access to cash or transferable assets in that person’s life. Especially during an already very stressful time in their lives. Fortunately, in Florida, you are able to utilize Trust Agreements as part your estate plan which can protect your family’s cash and valuable assets while still providing for essential needs, ongoing care, and even treatment as needed, of loved ones facing addiction after you’re gone. 

These Asset Protection Trusts can be used to safely make disbursements for your beneficiary’s housing, care, and other long term needs while still providing protection to the contents of your trust from the beneficiary’s debtors and even the beneficiary themself. The most common estate planning concerns for families with loved ones facing addiction are;

  1. how can I still care for and help my loved ones after I’m gone, and 
  2. how can I protect my families cash, accounts, and other valuable assets from my loved one’s liabilities while still caring for my loved ones after I’m gone?

Mechanisms like Spendthrift Provisions can stop beneficiaries from selling or otherwise transferring their future distributions from the trust. This prevents a beneficiary from selling their  interest in the trust for a lump sum of cash. 

By making distributions at the discretion of a trustworthy trustee, the beneficiary’s creditors are unable to attach an interest in the contents of the trust yet still allowing for the trust assets to be used to pay for on-going care and treatment of the beneficiary as needed and even for things like housing, gas, and food. 

By controlling the conditions under which disbursements may be made, a 3rd-party trustee can require requisites such as drug-screenings or sobriety tests to ensure the continued well-being of the beneficiary. Such trustees can be directed in any number of ways as to how, when, and to whom to make disbursements and can often make a good alternative to other family members who may not share your concerns or who may be more susceptible to emotional manipulation by the addicted beneficiary.

In many cases, you can retain these protections and still allow for loved ones to benefit from programs like medicare and/or medicaid for long-term care and treatment without draining your families assets and even while still maintaining the ability to safely make disbursements for the loved one’s benefit. More information about qualifying for Medicaid, Medicare, and other Social Benefit programs found under the Florida Asset Protection Trust category.

The other big concern for many families affected by addiction is protecting the interest of grandchildren and potential grandchildren from the generational fallout addiction can often have.

Language can be added to your trust which can allow your trustee(s) to set aside cash, accounts, or other assets for the benefit of a minor beneficiary while still protecting those assets even from that minor’s own parent or guardian if needed. Your trustee can be empowered to create further Constructive trusts to protect the interests of the youngest generation.

Families facing addiction often require special care, call a Jacksonville Estates Planning Lawyer at (904) 990-8000 to discuss what options you have when it comes to you caring for and protecting loved ones even after you’re gone.


For more information on addiction resources contact the American Addiction Center.

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