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How to leave large sums of money to a drug addict?
February 6, 2007 10:23 AM   Subscribe

Leaving Money to Drug Addicts Filter: My parents have re-written their will, which leaves all of their assets equally to myself and my step-brother. Considering that my step-brother is a drug addict (we also believe that he is a dealer, though he has yet to be arrested as such, so we don't know for sure), this becomes very complicated.

The way that the will works now is that if one parent is still alive, they will receive all assets from the estate. However, once both of them die, their combined assets are to be distributed between my brother and myself. The will is set up so that I, as the older sibling, am entrusted with distributing the wealth (so to speak) to my brother.

Now, I don't want to keep him from getting anything that is rightfully his. Our relationship has certainly been shaky, and I would certainly never give him anything that had belonged to my mother, but as far as his father's possessions (Yeah, my mother married his dad, for a little background), I have no problem with giving him any and all of those. As far as any monetary assets are concerned, I would be happy to divide the wealth equally between the two of us.

However, I don't think a large windfall would do him good. He's been using drugs since age 9 and had his first stint in rehab (State mandated after an arrest for assault and battery) at 17. He's currently homeless and wandering the country, yet conveniently keeps coming up with large sums of money at odd times - leading us to suspect that in addition to using drugs, he has probably at least occasionally been dealing them. He showed up back at my parents' doorstep last summer and they tried to get him some help, but it didn't take.

The reason I'm asking this question now, while my parents are still alive and well, is that they and I all want to be sure that while he is taken care of, he would not be able to use their inheritance to blow through a large amount of drugs in a short period of time.

Talking about this situation with a friend of mine, she suggested a trust wherein my brother would be able to be reimbursed for any and all legitimate expenses - is this sort of thing possible? Are there any other options where he can get money in small increments or just with the stipulation that it has to be for some pre-approved use (rent/food/hookers/anything-that's-not-snorted-through-his-nose, etc)? What sort of legal options exist for leaving potentially large sums of money (by the time all is said and done, it will be in the hundreds of thousands) to the completely irresponsible?

If you would prefer to contact me outside this post, the email is money4druggies@gmail.com.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (35 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
The reason I'm asking this question now, while my parents are still alive and well, is that they and I all want to be sure that while he is taken care of, he would not be able to use their inheritance to blow through a large amount of drugs in a short period of time.

The question is a little unclear, but it looks like the anonymous poster, his mother and step-father are united in their opinion of what they'd like to see happen. Given that it's the mother and step-father's will, I'd say it is for them to decide.
posted by MarkAnd at 10:38 AM on February 6, 2007


If they just will it to him and then die then,yes it's just his money, but:

The reason I'm asking this question now, while my parents are still alive and well, is that they and I all want to be sure that while he is taken care of, he would not be able to use their inheritance to blow through a large amount of drugs in a short period of time

I.e. the parents want to do something now to (a) provide for the brother after their death and (b) not provide for his habit. Read all of the question before pissing in the thread eh?
posted by biffa at 10:39 AM on February 6, 2007


You just carry out the instructions in the will. Your parents could have put a trust arrangement in the will if they wanted one. If they didn't, you can't institute one. You also can't decide what he gets (e.g. regarding things belonging to your mother). If it says 50-50, then it's 50-50.

If your parents think steps like this should be taken, they should talk to their lawyer. They can have the stuff distributed in any manner they could possibly dream up. But if they don't, you are legally obligated to just give him directly what the will says is his.
posted by winston at 10:41 AM on February 6, 2007


Maybe they could set up a trust for him. They'd need to see a lawyer for that, but getting a lawyer to prepare a will is always a good idea.
posted by AV at 10:42 AM on February 6, 2007


IANAL, but I think what you may be looking for is called a spendthrift trust. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spendthrift_trust
posted by Trekoni at 10:42 AM on February 6, 2007


Anonymous clearly stated that both he and his parents want to assure that his brother won't be able to spend the inheritance quickly on drugs.

To answer the question, yes, it's quite possible to create a trust and impose conditions on the beneficiary's receipt of funds. The conditions you're contemplating seem unwieldy to administer, though, and I'm not sure you could find a professional trustee who would take on these responsibilities for a fee that your parents would find reasonable. Moreover, trust law is extremely complicated and varies by jurisdiction, so you would need to consult a lawyer.

Would a simpler trust that provided your brother with a reasonable monthly allowance satisfy your parent's goals? Such a trust would be easier to create and administer, would prevent your brother from purchasing large amounts of drugs at once, and would provide him with an income if he ever decided to come clean.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:43 AM on February 6, 2007


To clarify, your parents would have to create the trust in their will, as other posters have stated. If they don't, you, as executor of the will, would have no power to create one.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:45 AM on February 6, 2007


Sit him down with you and your parents. Have them explain their wishes whatever, they are, while repeating their love for him.

If you are to be the guardian or whatever, tell him, right then and there, exactly what you're going to do.



Perhaps find a good treatment program and make it a condition of him getting his half that he go there. The payment comes outta his half.

Yeah, he's an adult, it's his decision, but he's family and you are, to some extent, your brother's keeper, no matter how far he's fallen. H



But whatever you decide, make sure he knows exactly what's going to happen and why. And have your parents explicity stat it in their will.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:51 AM on February 6, 2007


I agree -- do not get involved. It's a shitty deal but as others said it's not for you to decide, and you may regret it if your step-brother ever straightens his life one day.
posted by rolypolyman at 10:53 AM on February 6, 2007


This is tough.

Part of the problem is that your brother’s irresponsibility seems to lie somewhere on a vague line between “socially disapproved-of” and “legally incompetent.”

Your parents wishes clearly include you using some judgement, as they are leaving you to distribute the inheritance. So that means you need a way to exercise it that neither completely ruins your relationship with your brother nor stops you sleeping at night.

If there is no such way, you will need to tell your parents that you can’t fix things for them and that you are unable to take on the responsibilities they are asking you to.

Talk to your parents in detail about what their expectations actually are, and to a lawyer about your legal status as... uh, executor? trustee? You’ve left this ambiguous. Are you clear on your responsibilities? Are your parents?

An annuity might be appropriate. Perhaps you could buy a house for him to live in, though if he’s a wanderer that might not help much. A trust to support any children he may have might meet some of your parents’ requirements.

Ask some rehab centres for references to sources of information for people in your situation. ACOA or Al-Anon might be able to refer you as well. You aren’t the first.
posted by kika at 10:54 AM on February 6, 2007


They should set up a trust for your step-brother. Setting one up is trivial. The hard part is finding an appropriate trustee who will have the ability to distribute extra money from the trust in case of emergencies etc. If they basically never want this to happen except in the most dire situations then use a bank as a trustee; they are notorious for keeping the money. In the interest of family harmony it probably should not be you.
posted by caddis at 10:55 AM on February 6, 2007


You are talking about a managed trust. You and your parents need to speak with a financial advisor and a lawyer about setting one up. As the sole inheritor, you would be taxed far more punitively than if the trust were set up previous to your parents' death so that the money never passed through your hands.

For what it's worth, I have watched an addict in my family live under a managed trust for his entire adult life, a trust generous enough that he's never had to hold a job or want for any material object. The only thing management of his trust has accomplished has been to prevent him from burning through his entire inheritance too quickly. He still spends money on drugs and many, many rehab attempts at the finest facilities have failed because they've never been self-motivated. It's an empty and wasted life, but it's the one he's chosen, and no amount of management or interference has altered his decision.

My experience with this tells me that you are setting yourself up for some serious trouble and heartbreak. The people who manage my relation's trust are not in our family -- thankfully. Do you want to spend all your time being petitioned by your resentful stepbrother for more money? Do you want him showing up at your house with demands? That's what you are taking on. Were I you, I'd get some professional financial and legal advice as soon as possible, and have a very brass tacks discussion with your parents about what you can and can't take on in this.
posted by melissa may at 11:01 AM on February 6, 2007


What Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America said.

Although, it doesn't sound like it would be too difficult to accomplish. You could set up the trust to stipulate that funds can only be distributed to the beneficiary (your step-brother) at the discretion of the trustee (who would be someone your parents would trust in that capacity), and that the funds cannot be used for ______ (insert vice here).

And the trust would not necessarily have to be created within the will, to my knowledge (although IANAL), although your parents would have to draw up a codicil to direct the assets of the estate into the newly-formed trust.
posted by diggerroo at 11:05 AM on February 6, 2007


This is a tough one. Any housing you provide can transform fairly quickly into a den of druggies (a friend went through a similar situation; his father transformed his grandmother's home into a crack house in short order). Even worse, said druggie den can be RICO'd away. Any allowance can be quickly transformed into drugs. I'm not sure what drugs your step-brother prefers, but many serious addicts will work to transform any tangible assets into drugs, even at the most appalling conversion rates. When you're jonesin' for a fix, you might consider haggling for an extra rock for your grandfather's watch, but you might not.

Short of doling out food stamps, I'm not seeing anything besides a trust. I'm not sure how it could work, but trusts have been established with all kinds of strange restrictions. Perhaps a trust wherein he gets a weekly allowance on the basis of passing drug tests, with an additional fund for rehab, whenever he decides to go in. Additionally, make sure the trustee is not you. I would avoid becoming my step-brother's keeper, since all he will do is resent you for withholding funds for drugs (and for various unlikely schemes).
posted by adipocere at 11:07 AM on February 6, 2007


I want to second what melissa may said. Whatever your parents decide on, your role in administering their estate must wrap up quickly.

You want your brother's share to pass quickly and irrevocably out of your hands. If you act as trustee of your brother's share, it will utterly ruin your relationship and make your life miserable.

There are professional trustees for a reason.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:14 AM on February 6, 2007


I was just about to post what adipocere has shared - any marginally clever drug addict can convert virtually any legitimate money/goods/services into drugs. That doesn't mean you can't *try*, but you have to be prepared for the fact that short of cutting him out of the will completely, you will not be able to influence his decisions through this money. If you stand between the money & him, you're setting yourself up for a lifetime of misery.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 11:19 AM on February 6, 2007


[a few comments removed - the OP is looking for advice on how to do this, not "don't do this." Unless you want to explain yourself and not be snarky, please stay on topic, otherwise consider metatalk or email]
posted by jessamyn at 11:20 AM on February 6, 2007


A passing thought to prevent (or reduce) any resentment on the part of your stepbrother: If your parents decide a managed trust is the best way to proceed for your stepbrother, they could establish a similar managed trust for you. Your brother would be limited in the rate at which he can spend his inheritance, and you can avoid resentment on his part. Equity, baby!
posted by funkbrain at 11:20 AM on February 6, 2007


"she suggested a trust wherein my brother would be able to be reimbursed for any and all legitimate expenses..."

Just an FYI on trusts - as your brother may incur debts or otherwise seek access to those funds, any trust that you establish would have to be capable of standing up against legal attack.

However setup and ongoing costs of any trust must always be carefully measured and balanced against expected benefits. Just to follow the thought through, you'd probably be looking at some type of Asset Protection Trust, domiciled off shore, and involving several people none of whom can be yourself. And one point frequently overlooked regarding trusts, are the strict IRS reporting requirements. Can you trust your brother, as beneficiary of such a vehicle, to duitifully file the necessary returns every year? Even if we're talking a large enough sum to render such a trust necessary at the end of the year he's gotta sign that return himself. Why create a situation for him that will only backfire when the IRS comes looking for him when hes received passive income for a decade or so but never filed the paperwork?

So establishing a trust isn't a way out.

I fully agree with those posters upthread who advised against getting involved. Give him his cash and let him get on with his life.
posted by Mutant at 11:31 AM on February 6, 2007


I agree with funkbrain in that what you do for him you should do for you so that you can argue there is no difference or "special" treatment. It should not be a burden on you if you are responsible.

I am not so sure that any trust will ultimately work. I know Jessamyn pointed out that you are not asking whether to do this , but how. I would point out that assuming you do find a suitable method and trust, your folk's money will be used as intended (legitimately?) but the money saved from not having to buy food or shelter will then be available to be converted into drug money. Your bro has certainly proved himself capable of supporting himself and his habit. Restricting his money from your parent's estate will not suddenly turn his life around. It may in fact perpetuate it by converting the money he now spends on food, shelter and clothing into available money for drugs. Presumably, the estate money will be used to cover the essentials.

If the intent is to help your brother, I would put conditions on recieving the money, not on what it could be used for. A monthly stipend that is paid based on a clean drug test for instance. A yearly distribution if there are 6 consecutive clean monthly tests prior to the distribution date. Tie the payments to goals too. Get a degree from an accredited school, get a distribution. Or, put an age on the distribution. Essentially convert the money into a retirement account. You both get it when you reach 55 or some later in life age. This benefits you both.

Lastly, putting strings on money to control behavior rarely will Wendell. It builds resentment and hatred. Good luck.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:43 AM on February 6, 2007


Rule number one when your sibling is an addict: there is nothing you can do. Not only is it not your job, but there's no way you could ever protect your brother from himself. Administering his inheritance will cause you a lot of anxiety, and it'll create much bigger problems in your relationship than you have right now. As long has your brother has no children of his own, you have to stay out of his affairs. Even if you tell your parents you'd rather not act as your brother's keeper, it's their money, and they'll write their will as they see fit. If you do end up with responsibility for your brother's share, you don't have to stay involved. You can set up a trust yourself or you can give him free access.

Just as your brother has to go through a certain hideous process before he can possibly get free of drugs, you and your family are experiencing normal stages in how you think and feel about his disease. It's normal for your parents to look to you to help him; it normal for you to feel there's something you can do to influence him. You can't rush through the stages, but please: the best thing you can do for yourself is to become aware of your own denial and guilt so as not to prolong them.


My brother is a recovering drug addict and convicted former dealer. He got clean ten years ago after accumulating enormous debt, losing all material possessions, harming and losing contact with his young son, getting tuberculosis and cellulitis, realizing his family had all washed their hands of him, and failing at several stints in rehab. His case wasn't exceptional.
posted by wryly at 11:48 AM on February 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


My brother-in-law is bipolar (I am talking spend-large-amounts-of-time-in-hospital bipolar) and he has a trust. Apparently his parents were well off and knew he'd blow thru an inheritance way too quickly. His needs (plus my sister-in-law) are well provided for and have been for years.

So that is what I'd do.
posted by konolia at 11:49 AM on February 6, 2007


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America writes "The conditions you're contemplating seem unwieldy to administer, though, and I'm not sure you could find a professional trustee who would take on these responsibilities for a fee that your parents would find reasonable."

Be aware addicts will convert any tangible assets and most intangible ones into their fix if they can't otherwise provide for their monkey.

adipocere writes "I'm not sure what drugs your step-brother prefers, but many serious addicts will work to transform any tangible assets into drugs, even at the most appalling conversion rates.
"Short of doling out food stamps,"


I used to buy government food vouchers from alcoholics for $0.40 on the dollar. Even programs where the subsidy has to be signed for by the beneficiary can be gamed fairly easily.

Even a monthly allowance can be converted to a single large disbursement. There are companies that specialise in buying annuities for discounted rates of their cash value. Goals based payouts may be the counter to this though it may also contribute to a yo-yo lifestyle.
posted by Mitheral at 1:02 PM on February 6, 2007


If your parents decide a managed trust is the best way to proceed for your stepbrother, they could establish a similar managed trust for you.

That's ridiculous. The poster is not a drug addict, and should be able to use the inheritance as he or she wishes. Might as well say "Since your brother is going to have to be checked into rehab, you should check yourself in as well." There is no way of keeping the brother from being resentful.

Keep yourself as removed from the process as possible, and good luck. It's a rotten situation.
posted by languagehat at 1:07 PM on February 6, 2007


It sucks to see a bunch of cash given to someone who will likely piss it away, but it's not your cash. Your Mom and her husband may want to think about leaving money for him, tied up for medical or educational needs. Or not. The best thing for you to do is follow their wishes.

He may get the money and put it right up his nose. Then he may have to deal with consequences. Don't let it eat at you.
posted by theora55 at 1:21 PM on February 6, 2007


Anon can not establish a trust. Only the parents can. Although it has been said several times in this thread people are still getting it wrong. The only trust anon can set up is one where anon gives his own money, not the parent's money, to the step brother.

Perhaps a trust wherein he gets a weekly allowance on the basis of passing drug tests, with an additional fund for rehab, whenever he decides to go in.

This sounds interesting. It gives him a big incentive to stay clean and there is no company in their right mind who would buy that annuity if it depended upon an addict passing a drug test.

Mutant, why would the brother need to sign the return? Doesn't the trustee file and sign that return and the beneficiary just files on the benefits received, not the trust proper?
posted by caddis at 2:20 PM on February 6, 2007


I've gotta say I feel a little sheepish after having my suggestion swatted by at by languagehat. However I think my suggestion isn't deserving of ridicule.

The poster is not a drug addict, and should be able to use the inheritance as he or she wishes.

The poster should be able to use the inheritance as his/her parents would wish. So should the drug-addict brother. Like it or not, the poster is already bearing some consequence of the brother's actions, and will continue to do so. Unfair, I know.
posted by funkbrain at 3:29 PM on February 6, 2007


You want a trust. Probably a spendthrift trust. Talk to a good Trusts & Estates lawyer. First, look up some options on wikipedia and discuss things with investment bank helplines, like the one you get by calling Fidelity. They set up accounts for trusts to be kept in, and probably can help you with info over the phone, websites, maybe promotional pamphlets about why to use their services for the trust account rather than the services of some other investment bank, etc.
posted by lorrer at 3:58 PM on February 6, 2007


Your folks might talk to an attorney specializing in Elder Law (My mother is a certified elder law attorney), as this is precisely the sort of thing (trusts and variations on that theme) they are set up to deal with. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys has a search thingy here.
posted by jrb223 at 4:53 PM on February 6, 2007


Representative Payee.
posted by alms at 5:38 PM on February 6, 2007


Keep out of your step-brother's affairs and let him do what he will with the money. Why do you have to try to prevent him from pursuing the lifestyle he desires? While many judgmental people might call his life "empty" and "sad", I know drug addicts who lead interesting, fulfilling lives in spite of, and sometimes because of, managed drug use. Drug users, contrary to what many in this thread seem to believe, can be quite happy with the lives they have chosen. Leave him alone stop trying to interfere with an adult's decisions.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 6:03 PM on February 6, 2007


Why do you have to try to prevent him from pursuing the lifestyle he desires?

The OP mentioned the brother had been in jail for assault. That seems to me like a pretty good reason why the lifestyle he desires isn't working out well, for him or anyone else. It's not going to do him or anyone else any good to fuel a habit that's already put him in state-mandated rehab by 19. S/he also mentioned the drug use started at age 9 - doesn't that seem a little sad to you? Maybe there's nothing to be done about the drug use, but the question is not "Should I condone my brother's drug use?" but "Is there a way to keep [our] parents' inheritance from funding it?"

Sounds like the parents need to do some more revising on the will to get a trust worked out, but since everyone's (as anonymous says) alive and well, that should be doable.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:54 PM on February 6, 2007


state-mandated rehab by 19.

D'oh. 17. I'm not on drugs, but apparently, I haven't learned to read either.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:56 PM on February 6, 2007


"Mutant, why would the brother need to sign the return? Doesn't the trustee file and sign that return and the beneficiary just files on the benefits received, not the trust proper?"

Caddis: you're absolutely correct on the mechanics of the trustee however my (poorly worded on second read) point was as beneficiary he would of course have an obligation to report that income. Seems like now he's effectively living outside the system dealing drugs and whatnot, so I doubt he's already filing returns. If the money OP is discussing is large enough to warrant an Off Shore vehicle then the brother will no doubt incur taxable liabilities, and as well intentioned as establishing a trust would be, it would only blow up later.
posted by Mutant at 9:20 PM on February 6, 2007


Yes, sorry, I was being judgmental. Perhaps your stepbrother is the sort of decadent yet gifted artist type pleasantly whiling away the hours having sophisticated sex with European basket cases when not on the nod, a la High Art. Or maybe he's like my relation, a middle-aged crankhead whose teenaged consort just gave birth to his sixth child after his trustees released money to him for a vasectomy he never got around to having. Either way, your parents have the sole right to decide what they want their lives' earnings to fund, and you have the sole right to decide what role you wish to play in that process. I truly hope that you all get some high-quality legal and financial advice and do what's best to protect yourselves and your brother.
posted by melissa may at 11:40 PM on February 6, 2007


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