A diagnosis of mental illness is always tough on both the patient and the close friends and family members. While it may come as a relief to finally have professional recognition of a problem, the certification that the problem exists can be difficult to handle. As advanced as our society has become, those with certain mental illnesses still find themselves stigmatized and forced to the fringes of human interaction.
When Allison’s daughter, Summer, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 15, Allison knew that the young woman would need a lot of help and support to deal with the diagnosis, the treatment and the daily medication regimen needed to keep her on an even keel. Unfortunately, as a single mother, Allison didn’t have as much time as she would have wanted to attend to her daughter’s needs and give her all the support necessary to protect her fragile psyche and keep at bay those who would seek to prey on her perceived vulnerability.
In her up cycles, Summer was a vivacious, articulate, engaging and charming young woman who could light up a room. But when that cycle ended and she entered a down phase, she would spend hours at a time in bed or in a living room chair, lost in dark thoughts and tears.
As part of her divorce settlement, Allison had insisted that her ex-husband make regular payments into an UTMA, or Uniform Transfer to Minors Account, to pay for Summer’s college expenses. He had done so faithfully, and Allison was relieved to know that at least she wouldn’t have the worry of coming up with tuition, fees and living expenses to deal with on top of everything else. When she turned 18, the entire amount of the UTMA would be hers to do with as she chose. While that prospect gave Allison some pause, she knew that she’d raised her daughter well and trusted that she’d make good choices.
The first semester went great, with Summer getting acclimated to life in the city, making new friends and enjoying her classes. As winter turned to spring, though, Summer moved off campus into an apartment with new “friends” on a hand shake arrangement and began to slide into a down cycle. After disclosing to her new roommates, about her hefty UTMA account they devised a scheme to take advantage of her vulnerability convincing Summer that she owed unreasonable sums of money to them for past room and board. And threatened to have her arrested if she did not make good on her debits immediately.
As the account rapidly dwindled Summer only became more depressed. Rather than seeing her therapist and getting her medication adjusted, Summer withdrew, her grades plummeted and she soon quit going to class.
When Summer finally revealed the situation to her mother Allison, Allison was frantic and immediately contacted several trust companies in an attempt to preserve what was left of her daughters account, however it was too late. Within a few short weeks, her “friends” had all but completely exhausted the money in Summer’s UTMA account and moved on.
Summer did manage to get through the hard times, and her faculty advisors, wracked with guilt at having not seen her plight, petitioned the art school for additional money to help her continue her schooling. She managed to finish school, but all the money from the UTMA was gone, and she had a very difficult time supporting herself with her art alone after school, ending up in a series of “small” jobs which kept her bills paid but also kept her from pursuing her dream.
If Allison had chosen to put Summer’s college savings into a third-party managed education trust, such as those offered by Kiss Trust through Eastern Point Trust Company (rather than an UTMA), Summer’s false friends would never have been able to wreak the havoc they did. With controlled distributions tied to things like successful course completions, finishing school and other milestones, a Kiss Trust encourages positive life choices. The trust also allows the grantor to build in penalties such as suspension of benefits for bad behavior, failure at school, alcohol or drug abuse issues and the like. A third-party managed trust is a far more secure way to handle the large (or even not so large) sums of money that can become available to a young person upon attaining their majority.
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