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When Should Certified Estate Planners (CEPs) Refer Clients to Long-Term Addiction Treatment?

A Certified Estate Planner (CEP) specializes in helping clients plan for their estates’ future management and disposition. While their focus is primarily on financial and legal aspects of estate planning, they may encounter situations where a client’s or their family member’s substance use disorder (SUD) significantly impacts estate planning decisions. There are several circumstances under which a CEP might refer a person to long-term, chronic addiction treatment like the program at Burning Tree Ranch.

Who We Are

Burning Tree Ranch is a specialty program dedicated to the treatment of chronic addiction and mental health. Our program is long-term, progress-based, and highly intensive. Since 1999, we have supported countless referring professionals in delivering ethical, high-quality solutions to the clients and families they represent.

Circumstances for Referral to Long-Term Treatment

Estate Management Concerns

If a client or beneficiary’s SUD poses a risk to the responsible management or inheritance of the estate, a CEP might suggest treatment to ensure the estate is managed according to the client's wishes.

Protection of Assets

Observing that substance use leads to financial decisions that could deplete the estate or jeopardize asset preservation, prompting concerns about the estate's long-term viability.

Trust and Guardianship Issues

When establishing trusts or guardianships, if a beneficiary’s substance use is likely to impact their ability to make sound decisions or if their health and safety are at risk, treatment may be recommended as a condition for receiving benefits.

Family Dynamics and Disputes

Substance use disorders can exacerbate family disputes, especially in matters of inheritance and estate distribution. A CEP might refer a client or family member to treatment for conflict resolution and to facilitate smoother estate proceedings.

Legal and Financial Complications

Encountering legal issues or financial complications arising from a client’s or beneficiary's substance use that could affect the estate, such as liabilities or potential claims against the estate.

Observations Informing the Need to Act

In these scenarios, a CEP’s referral to addiction treatment is guided by a commitment to ensuring the estate is managed and distributed according to the client’s wishes while considering the well-being of all involved. Such referrals should be made sensitively, emphasizing the connection between personal well-being and financial health and the favorable impact treatment can have on both.

  • Erratic Behavior or Decision-Making: Noticeable changes in a client’s or beneficiary’s behavior or decision-making abilities that suggest impaired judgment due to substance use.
  • Financial Mismanagement: Signs of financial mismanagement tied to substance use, such as unexplained withdrawals, loans against the estate, or selling off assets at a loss.
  • Health Concerns: Observing physical or mental health deterioration in a client or beneficiary that could be attributed to long-term substance use, affecting their capacity to manage inheritance.
  • Direct Disclosures: A client or family member may disclose struggles with substance use directly to the CEP, expressing concern about its impact on estate planning or inheritance.
  • Concerns Expressed by Family Members: Family members may express concerns about a loved one’s substance use and its potential impact on the estate or their ability to manage their inheritance responsibly.
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Seeing the direct effect of addiction on estate planning efforts, such as an inability to participate meaningfully in planning discussions or make informed decisions.

Beyond Wills and Trusts: Addressing Substance Use in Estate Planning

The responsibility of a Certified Estate Planner (CEP) to recommend long-term chronic addiction treatment to a client involves a nuanced approach, balancing professional expertise in estate planning with a broader concern for the client’s well-being and the integrity of the estate.

While CEPs are not healthcare providers, their close involvement with clients’ financial and estate planning affairs can position them to identify when personal issues, such as substance use disorders (SUD), may adversely impact the management and distribution of an estate.

Ethical Consideration

The primary responsibility of a CEP is to act in the best interest of the client, which encompasses not only financial and estate planning but also considering factors that might jeopardize the client’s wishes for their estate due to health issues like SUD.

Any recommendation regarding personal matters must be approached with the utmost confidentiality and sensitivity, respecting the client’s privacy while addressing concerns that could affect their estate planning objectives.

Professional Judgment

CEPs might notice signs that a client’s SUD is affecting their ability to make sound decisions regarding their estate or is risking the financial stability necessary to fulfill their estate planning goals. In such cases, suggesting treatment could be considered part of safeguarding the estate’s future.

Recognizing that effective estate planning involves considering the client’s overall life situation, including health issues that might impact the estate or the well-being of beneficiaries.

Practical Considerations

While making a direct medical recommendation is outside their expertise, CEPs can provide clients with information on resources or suggest consulting with a healthcare professional about addiction treatment options.

In some situations, CEPs might discuss with clients the possibility of incorporating conditions related to health and treatment into their estate plans, such as trusts that require beneficiaries to seek treatment to access funds.

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Estate Planning as a Path to Recovery: Leveraging Treatment for Legacy Preservation

A Certified Estate Planner (CEP) can play a pivotal role in motivating a client to seek and complete treatment for substance use disorder (SUD), particularly by framing the conversation around the client’s financial well-being and the legacy they wish to leave.


  • Linking Treatment to Estate Goals: By demonstrating how SUD may jeopardize the client’s estate planning goals, such as preserving wealth for future generations or ensuring the stability of a family business, a CEP can motivate a client to seek treatment to safeguard their legacy.
  • Highlighting Financial Consequences: A CEP can outline the potential financial consequences of not addressing SUD, including the risk of diminishing estate value through erratic spending or legal troubles. This can motivate clients by showing the direct link between personal recovery and financial security.
  • Educating on the Impact on Beneficiaries: Discussing how SUD could affect the client’s ability to provide for their beneficiaries or influence the equitable distribution of assets can create a personal motivation for clients to pursue recovery.
  • Framing Recovery as an Investment: Treatment can be presented as an investment in the client’s future and the stability of their estate, similar to other financial investments made for long-term gain.

Incorporating Leverage for Treatment

  • Incentive Trusts: A CEP can suggest setting up an incentive trust that releases funds to the beneficiary (the client or a family member) contingent upon completing a treatment program, providing a financial incentive to seek and adhere to treatment.
  • Conditional Gifts or Inheritances: For clients planning their estate, incorporating conditions related to treatment and recovery within their will or estate plan can serve as leverage, making access to certain assets or inheritances dependent on undergoing treatment.
  • Estate Plan Reviews: Offering regular estate plan reviews as a follow-up mechanism can serve as leverage, ensuring the client remains committed to their recovery journey while maintaining their estate planning objectives.
  • Collaboration with Other Professionals: By collaborating with addiction specialists or financial counselors specializing in recovery, a CEP can ensure that the client receives comprehensive support, making treatment more approachable.
  • Family Meetings: Facilitating family meetings to discuss the estate plan and the importance of the client’s health in securing the family’s future can mobilize family support as leverage for the client to undertake and complete treatment.

Through these strategies, a CEP can effectively motivate a client to pursue treatment by connecting it to their financial and legacy concerns, using the preservation of their estate and the well-being of their beneficiaries as compelling reasons for recovery.

Asking the Right Questions

Considering Long-Term Treatment for Your Client

The Need to Act

What are the circumstances?

What are the circumstances under which you may refer a person to long-term, chronic addiction treatment? What are you observing that informs you of the need to act?

Fiduciary Duty

What Is Your Professional Responsibility?

Do you have a moral or fiduciary responsibility to make a recommendation for long–term chronic addiction treatment for your client?

Motivation for Completing Treatment

What can be leveraged to motivate the client?

What motivation for treatment might you be able to create as a trusted professional serving a family’s best interest? How might you incorporate leverage for the client to go and complete treatment?

How Do I Know If My Loved One is a Fit for Burning Tree Ranch?

Answer a Few Short Questions

Authentic Long-Term Treatment

Burning Tree specializes in treatment for Chronic Relapse

We understand the complex, multi-faceted issues many of our families face when it comes to addiction. The circumstances of long-term residential treatment allow us to create a treatment program unlike anything else in the world.

Operating outside the limitations of a traditional 30, 60 or 90-day format, Burning Tree adheres to progress-based metrics that inform the clinical treatment team of the unique mental, emotional and spiritual needs of the individual.

We are the only treatment center in the United States that combines time-intensive residential treatment with a therapeutically coordinated aftercare program focused singularly on the treatment of chronic relapsers.

Burning Tree is a World-Renown Organization

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