Advising Clients About Addiction Matters
Originally appeared in Estate Planning, a Thomson Reuters publication. Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters/Tax & Accounting.
Many more clients of estate planners, or their immediate family members, are struggling with an addiction (such as drugs, alcohol, gambling, shopping, spending, sex, etc.) than might be expected. Few clients directly inform their advisers of addiction challenges. Moreover, some planners may incorrectly believe that, because their clients are wealthy and successful, these are not issues that affect them. That may be a costly mistake and misconception. In fact, in many cases, it is the very wealth that brings clients in for planning that puts them and their children at greater risk for addiction, anxiety, depression and even suicide. The majority of the time, it is these very factors, wealth and success, which contribute to the shame and ambivalence clients have in disclosing their struggles with addiction (whether theirs or another family member’s) to their planners.
It is essential to the success of the estate plan, as well as the family’s quality of life, to address the fact that many clients, or members of their family, struggle with addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, compulsive spending, sex, or other such behaviors. Any of these dependencies may undermine, or even destroy their quality of life, their family, their financial security, and potentially their lives. Asking direct questions may be uncomfortable for the planner, as well as the client; however, making the necessary inquiries might enable the adviser to then provide referrals, support them in getting help, and preserve the wealth they’ve accumulated over their lifetime and provide for the legacy of values they hold dear.
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