LEGAL ADVICE—When Addiction Threatens Estate Assets

By on January 4, 2018
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By R. Kelly Kyle

 

 

When Addiction Threatens
Estate Assets

 

A recent study showed that nearly 17 million Americans used illicit drugs in the past year. According to The New York Times, in 2016, approximately 64,000 Americans died from accidental drug overdoses, and half of those were from opioid prescription medications. More than 24 million suffer from alcoholism, and nearly 100,000 people die from alcohol-related medical causes each year. Over 10,000 die from drunk driving, accounting for fully one-third of all highway deaths in this country.

 

Chemical dependency can strike any family, and since research shows that some people have a genetic predisposition to addictive behavior, it can strike multiple members of one family. If your family member suffers from a dependence on alcohol or drugs, prescription or illegal, and refuses to get help, you are not alone. We have helped hundreds of families use the Mississippi Chancery Court system to require alcoholics or addicts to enter and complete chemical dependency treatment. The commitment process is available to those entering public treatment facilities like the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield or private treatment facilities.

 

Ability to pay for treatment will be a primary factor in determining what type facility is appropriate. Treatment at the State Hospital is at little or no cost to the patient or family, but a big drawback to this option is there is normally an extremely lengthy waiting list for admission, and the legal side of the commitment process may add as many as three weeks to that wait. Unfortunately, legislative funding cuts have resulted in the closure of the men’s treatment unit at Whitfield, but treatment is still available to female patients.

 

Private treatment facilities usually have immediate availability, and Chancery Court commitment is available to these facilities on an emergency basis. Admission to some facilities may cost only a few thousand dollars, while others may cost many thousands more for a full course of treatment. Local law enforcement will assist in transporting an individual to the treatment facility for a nominal fee if the person being committed will not go to treatment voluntarily, and if the family requests assistance.

 

Inpatient treatment after commitment to the State Hospital’s chemical dependency program usually lasts 28-35 days. Under Mississippi law, involuntary commitment to private facilities can be for a maximum of 60 days of inpatient treatment followed by a maximum of 180 days of outpatient treatment.

 

Of course, the primary focus of our practice is estate planning, and chemical dependency of a family member is something that must be taken into account when planning your estate. Even if addiction is “beaten” one or more times, it may still return at any time. Additional safeguards must be put in place that will prevent an heir suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction from squandering their inheritance because of some bad decisions.

Putting in place a good estate plan like a Revocable Living Trust not only avoids conservatorship if you should become incapacitated during your lifetime and avoids probate of your estate after your death, it also can limit what your heir receives from your Trust each year. It can also stretch out the distribution of an inheritance over a number of years, and ensure that someone you trust will remain in charge indefinitely of that inheritance, doling it out to your heir as and when needed.

 

A Revocable Trust that contains the Personal Asset Trust™ provisions offered exclusively by Kyle Wynn & Associates will allow your beneficiary to be in control of what you leave them if they are capable of acting responsibly, but it can take that control away from them if they begin showing signs of addictive behavior.

 

Don’t allow the disease of addiction or alcoholism to steal your family member from you. Help is available to get treatment for those who might not even realize they need it. Don’t allow that disease to take from them what you worked so hard to accumulate. Help is available to protect it for you and for them too. Call us to learn more.