Legal Corner columnist Sam Moak

The information in this column is not intended as legal advice but to provide a general understanding of the law. Any readers with a legal problem, including those whose questions are addressed here, should consult an attorney for advice on their particular circumstances.

One of my wife’s favorite shows, and perhaps some of your’s too, is Intervention. The show’s premise revolves around a family dealing with a loved one’s addiction and facing them through an intervention to get them to admit their addiction and seek treatment. 

Sadly, the statistics show that most of these interventions are not successful. Substance abuse, alcoholism and drug addiction affect countless Americans — more than many people realize. The impact of addiction is far-reaching, and literature on the fallout typically focuses on emotional trauma. But there are other concerns, too.

The New York Times recently interviewed Patti Sacher, whose then-college-aged daughter tried LSD at a Grateful Dead concert in 1989. Her life hasn’t been the same since. Mental illness, homelessness, hospitalizations, violence and deepening addiction have been the milestones of her life for the last 27 years.

Patti and her husband have worked hard to care for their daughter during that time, and it hasn’t been easy, especially where finances are concerned. Insurance helps, they say, but even as they move into retirement, they continue to provide housing and additional support for the troubled child they love. Now, they worry about who will take care of her once they’ve both passed away.

They aren’t alone in that concern. Indeed, right here in Huntsville — and throughout all of Texas — there are many parents who are fighting an adult child’s addiction. So what can they do to protect their child if addiction persists (or relapses) after their deaths?

Astutely, the Times suggests the creation of a trust. There are many kinds of trusts that can give parents considerable control over the distribution of their finances in the future (the Times piece focuses on one in particular, the special purpose trust). Just as with children who suffer from disabilities, mental incapacity or other impairments, those who struggle with addiction can benefit from a carefully crafted trust.

Most often, these trusts serve to protect the beneficiary from themselves or the environment around them. However, sometimes the intent of the trust is to provide for the children of these addicted individuals.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction in the family, remember that estate planning is an important part of the overall approach to such a difficult situation.

Be aware that Texas law places certain requirements as to the form of the documents discussed. Therefore, you should consult an attorney who is focused on Estate Planning Law and has experience with regard to what is required to insure your wishes are effectively put in place when the time comes.

Sam A. Moak is an attorney with the Huntsville law firm of Moak & Moak, P.C. He is licensed to practice in all fields of law by the Supreme Court of Texas, is a Member of the State Bar College, and is a member of the Real Estate, Probate and Trust Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.

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