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Wealthy Beneficiaries and Substance Abuse: Top Three Tips for Advising Impaired Beneficiaries

Written by O'Connor Professional Group
Published on March 4, 2021

Attorneys, financial professionals and trustees unwittingly encounter impaired beneficiaries with a range of addictive behaviors. They may fail to recognize the symptoms of substance abuse or feel ill-equipped to effectively intervene. Given the pressures to preserve their relationships, legal or financial advisors may be tempted ignore signs of dysfunctional behavior, such as unjustified requests for large sums of money, emotional instability, or unproductive lifestyle choices. Although these professionals worry about jeopardizing their relationships with clients by raising sensitive subjects around mental well-being, there are risks to ignoring behaviors all together.

Distributions can be made to someone who wastes the money and later holds the advisor responsible; a shared asset such as a family business could be negatively impacted by one family member who behaves irresponsibly due to a behavioral health issue. In addition, families are increasingly relying on professional advisors to serve their holistic needs.

If advisors are successful in helping client families to locate professional support, they will develop strong reputations for being problem solvers and valuable partners.  Companies like O’Connor Professional Group can help legal and financial experts to enhance their understanding of how to best manage impaired beneficiaries.

Top Three Tips for Impaired Beneficiaries: Understand, Recognize, Manage

Understand: Incidence Rates of Beneficiary Addiction

The question of whether affluent families experience addiction at higher rates than the general population is a common one. One family business consultant reports that 54 percent of family business clients identified a substance use disorder as a significant impairment for members in major ownership or management positions. Over 20% of affluent young adults meet substance use or dependence criteria, double the 10% rate for the general population.

Recognize: Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse Disorder and Addiction

A hallmark sign of addiction is loss of control over thought or consumption indicating that brain change has occurred. Aside from the common repercussions of substance use, such as hangovers and inebriation at inopportune times, less direct symptoms of substance abuse include the following:

  • Absence from social gatherings
  • Legal problems
  • Isolation and disconnection
  • Overspending or legal problems
  • Inability to commit to completing any activity
  • Medical problems
  • Job or school suspensions
  • Overreaction to challenges and poor coping skills
  • Forgetting conversations and decisions
  • Complaints and concerns expressed by family members or friends

Manage: How to Help Beneficiaries With Substance Abuse & Mental Health Disorders

As with many complex issues, the approach to managing impaired beneficiaries depends on the circumstances. The types of questions that can inform a substance abuse or mental health care plan include the following:

  • Is the client in crisis?
  • Does the person want help?
  • If the party with the addictive behavior is resistant to help, what leverage is available to the family or advisors?
  • Is there an established diagnosis or known clinical history?
  • Is an asset at risk?
  • Are family members involved?

Depending on the answers to the questions above, companies like O’Connor Professional Group can develop a customized plan to best address the needs of the client, advisor and family system. The plan will incorporate recommendations for treatment and accountability and ideally be implemented over a long period of time to maximize the changes for long-term recovery.

At O’Connor Professional Group, our team specializes in providing private addiction services in situations just like these. To learn more about our concierge addiction treatment services for beneficiaries and advisors, click here or contact us at 617.910.3940 for an initial consultation.

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