• Opioid Addiction: Implications for your estate planning

By Linda T. Cammuso

The opioid epidemic has become an everyday discussion in mainstream society. According to a recent Boston Globe article, 4 in 10 adults know someone who has abused prescription painkillers in recent years. You may even be among those who know of a family member, colleague or friend struggling with addiction. In Massachusetts the statistics are sobering:

  • The number of people dying from overdoses increased between 13 and 24 percent from 2015 to 2016
  • A total of 1,465 people died from unintentional overdoses in 2016
  • Emergency personnel administered 12,000 doses of naloxone (aka Narcan) in 2015

It is now understood that most heroin users began with prescription drug abuse and the victims come from every socio-economic group, and increasingly from so-called “typical” families. Opioid addiction leads to painful health and social consequences that affect family life, work life, financial security, inheritances and more.

At EPLO, we have witnessed this alarming trend firsthand as we find our clients increasingly facing this issue in their own families.  The importance of thoughtful, proactive estate planning when dealing with addiction in one’s family cannot be overstated. If you even suspect that a child or grandchild, or a relative that you might name, or have named, as a beneficiary of your estate has a history of substance abuse, your first reaction may be to exclude this individual as a beneficiary.   Fortunately, effective estate planning options are available for you to leave assets to these at-risk individuals in a protective and controlled manner.

Create a Trust

We understand that dealing with a loved one with addiction is overwhelming. Making a decision on how to manage inheritance after your passing might seem equally difficult – after all you do not want your-hard earned assets to be squandered, or worse, used to support a habit that might even ultimately lead to death. A trust can help.

Trusts are used for many purposes in estate planning.  Simply stated, a trust arrangement involves naming a trusted person or entity to manage assets for the benefit of a beneficiary.  As the person creating the trust, you set the parameters for how funds are to be invested and distributed.

Using a trust for the inheritance of a beneficiary struggling with addiction ensures oversight and accountability in how, when and whether that person’s inheritance is spent.  It could literally make a life-or-death difference for someone you love.

If opioid addiction has impacted your family and you want to address these challenges in your will/trust, contact an attorney who specializes in estate planning today.

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