The Difficult Task of Creating a Trust for an Alcoholic Heir

Q: What questions should I be prepared to ask when consulting with an attorney about drafting a trust for my 55-year-old alcoholic son? What types of provisions would I like to add to my Will?

A: It can be difficult to set up a trust for someone with an addiction.

First, you need to decide who will be the trustee of the trust. Naming your son, while legally possible, is a bad idea because of his condition. But who do you want to entrust with the responsibility of serving as an administrator? Being the trustee of a trust for a beneficiary with an addiction is not a job that many people would want.

Second, you must decide what distributions can be made to him from the trust. Any money given directly to your son will likely be spent on booze and other things you consider reckless. Often, an addiction trust provides that most distributions should be made directly to other parties, not to your son.

For example, the trust could allow payment of rent, health insurance, medical care, food and clothing. The trust may allow your son to be reimbursed if he pays himself, but only if he provides the trustee with a receipt proving that he made the payment.

Third, you need to decide if the trust should contain provisions allowing for more distributions if your son cleans up his deed. The trust could be set up to pay for alcohol and drug testing, as well as some or all of the costs associated with a rehabilitation facility.

Fourth, you need to decide what powers, if any, your son would have over the trustee, such as being able to remove the trustee and replace him with another trustee of his choice.

Finally, you need to determine where the remaining assets of the trust will go after your son’s death.

It would be best for you to hire a certified estate planning attorney. Confidence like this can be hard to write.

Q: I want to donate a rental property located in Texas to my married son who also lives in Texas. When does it become community property? What happens to the status of the property in the event of a divorce?

A. The property will be the separate property of your son when the gift is made. In fact, it is good for the deed to say that he will own it as his separate property. The property will remain his separate property unless he decides to convert it to joint ownership in a written agreement with his wife.

It is important to note that all revenue generated from the property will be owned by the community.

The information in this column is intended to provide a general understanding of the law, not legal advice. Ronald Lipman of the law firm of Houston Lipman & Associates is certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Email questions to

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