Recently, The New York Timespublished the Ethicist’s answer to a reader question, “Can We Disinherit Our Addicted Son?” Here’s a shortened version of the question to which the column responds:
Our son has been a heroin addict for 10 years…We have spent a fortune on rehab, counseling, legal fees and more, which changed nothing…
Under other circumstances, we would split everything equally among our children, but for our addicted son, this would be like throwing gasoline on a fire.
We are thinking of putting his share into a trust to be used exclusively for his future health needs, rehab and, hopefully, sobriety. But again, we love our son, and it is heartbreaking to realize we are essentially leaving him nothing tangible. What is the ethical thing for us to do?
And below is McManus & Associates Founding Principal John O. McManus’ take, which is posted alongside the article:
As a principal of an estate and trusts law firm in this New York metropolitan area, it is not uncommon to see these family struggles – you are directionally prudent in your decision. That said, the anguish often comes with discerning whether “it is fair, and could it be more destructive” if my addicted child sees that we are treating him differently from his currently higher functioning siblings. One consolation is that all your children may elegantly receive their family gift into trust. For your other children, the trust serves to protect their assets from others, but each can serve as their own trustee and enjoy the protection of “driving their own armored truck,” making investments and distributions to themselves as necessary. For your currently addicted son, he will have another “driver” (other than himself) to serve as trustee until he reaches emancipation from his addiction one day. It may also be prudent that the trustee not be one your other children, but someone who both knows your son and your wishes for his very best welfare. In the meantime, your other children’s strain will not be compounded by taking his calls as he seeks to achieve access to the trust assets during his period of vulnerability. In the end, your other children will love and protect him by quietly possessing the power to appoint and remove any independent trustee and can regularly remain in consultation to ratify the trustee’s decisions.
For help with setting up a trust to protect your children from asset attacks by others (as well as to protect them from themselves, when necessary), call McManus & Associates at 908-898-0100.
The Leonard Lopate Show covers issues of interest to New Yorkers, from contemporary art to current events. It’s in the NPR family and is produced by WNYC.
Yesterday, the radio show explored the extremely important topic “How to Access the Best Healthcare” with guest Leslie Michelson, author of The Patient’s Playbook: How to Save Your Life and the Lives of Those You Love. The episode, which focused on how to be a smarter health care consumer, was introduced with the fact that 400,000 Americans die every year from preventable medical errors. And many others “receive less than optimal care, even though it’s readily available to them and their insurance will cover it.” With priceless advice on how to avoid being a victim of this crisis, Michelson discussed how to choose the right doctor, coordinate the best care, and make good medical decisions.
John O. McManus, who has decades of experience ensuring that families are prepared and protected when faced with dire medical situations, called in during the show to add a key observation: It’s critical to name people who will step in and act on your behalf, if you are ever incapacitated. Without choosing representatives to serve as our advocates, we’re left at the mercy of the medical community.
The Somerset Hills YMCA of New Jersey recently held its 3rd Annual Volunteer Spirit Awards & Annual Campaign Victory Celebration. Members of the community joined together to recognize the far-reaching benefits of volunteerism and the selfless spirit in which it is offered. As such, Spirit Awards were presented to thank Y volunteers who “have made an impact” and inspire “by giving of themselves selflessly to benefit the Y and its members.”
John O. McManus, founder of McManus & Associates, was honored to receive a Spirit Award in the Living Our Cause category on this “Night of Stars,” the theme of the evening. John donated his talents in the volunteer area of Board of Directors/Annual Campaign/Planned Giving to benefit the Somerset Hills YMCA, a big-hearted organization that touches lives throughout the community.
For those who don’t manage to review their estate plans as often as they should, it’s time to break a bad habit: Revisions may be in order for many in New Jersey and beyond due to new tax laws.
Changes to both inheritance and estate tax will affect estate taxation. Here are a few items that should be examined now as they relate to your wealth transfer plan:
Earlier this year, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) became law. ATRA allows you to leave an unlimited amount of assets to your spouse. Children and other beneficiaries will be excluded if your will or trust says that your spouse will be provided up to the “maximum amount permitted by law.” Also, under the ATRA, you may give up to $5,250,000 in assets to a non-spouse, such as a child or your trust, without racking up estate tax liability.
The taxes of many couples in New Jersey and across the nation will be affected by the striking down of a key provision in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Same-sex couples are treated as married for all federal tax purposes, regardless of where they were legally married. Additionally, New Jersey recently gave same-sex marriage the green light. Couples who were married in another state but live in The Garden State, as well as those who are just now saying their vows, should alter their wills and trusts to capitalize on these legal changes.
The estate-tax exemption for 2014 will be $5.34 million for individuals, up from $5.25 million in 2013.
Give McManus & Associates a call at 908-898-0100. We can help you modify your estate plan to take full advantage of the new rules.