According the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio leads the nation in opioid (i.e., heroin) overdose deaths. (Source: http://www.dispatch.com/news/20161129/ohio-leads-nation-in-overdose-deaths/1.) According to WKBN (a Youngstown television broadcast station), a growing number of children are losing their parents as a result of the epidemic. (Source: http://wkbn.com/2016/09/20/heroin-epidemic-leaves-growing-number-of-kids-without-parents/.)
People my age (I am 57) are being called back into the role of primary parenting as their children die from heroin and leave children (my peers’ grandchildren) to be taken care of. Retirement plans are placed on hold; financial resources are being taxed; physical and emotional strength is being sapped. We love our grandchildren, certainly—and one of the beauties of grand-parenting is that we get to give them back. Unless there is no on to give the grandchild back to.
This is not because my peers have failed as parents, or because our children are bad people. Finger-pointing and blame-allocation are not properly in play. The lives of our children, their children—and our lives—are at stake. And all too often, poor or non-existent estate planning reaps a terrible harvest.
First, every parent should have a Will in which that parent names someone to be guardian for their minor children. Even if there are no assets, the naming of a guardian for minor children ought to be of primary concern to every parent of minor children. Many of those dying are single parents, and the other parent is often addicted himself (almost always, the child ends up with the mother). Not naming a guardian opens the door for the often disinterested father to claim his child when the father often is not able to care for himself, let alone himself and a child. The court system is awash in these difficult cases, and the law is often ill-equipped to deal with these issues.
Second, every grandparent and every great grandparent should have an estate plan that addresses the contingency of the death of a child or grandchild. Trusts work well to hold assets for the benefit of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
An estate plan can be crafted to provide benefits to a child who has an addiction problem without actually giving the child access to cash or assets (otherwise, those assets may well be spent to feed an addiction).
The heroin epidemic is no respecter of persons. People of every social and economic class are affected. People of every ethnicity, every religion, every nationality are being affected. No one is immune. Let us all pray for our children and grandchildren, love them, and give the best example and guidance we can. And let us prepare ourselves, and encourage our children to prepare themselves, in case we are overtaken by this terrible, horrific addiction that is growing and seems to respect no one.