You did not work a lifetime so that your wealth could be squandered by the spouse of your child. There are many ways to protect your family’s assets, and most of them involve trusts. A trust can be designed to do just about anything so long as it is not vague. Before you set up a trust, you need to identify your goals, evaluate the risks, and consult with an attorney you trust.

Let’s presume your son-in-law is a lovable gambler who is a decent father. He may remain in the family or may not, but you want to make sure he never controls family wealth. In a case such as this one, you may want to create a “spendthrift” trust that does at least three things: (1) states specifically that the funds in the trust can only be used to directly benefit your daughter and her children and cannot be used for any other purpose; (2) appoints a trustee you can trust with the assets you want to give to your daughter’s benefit; and (3) gives the trustee discretion to pay or not pay any debt incurred by your daughter.

Under such a trust, your daughter has the support of your wealth, but does not have title to it. Therefore, neither her husband nor his creditors can make claims against the trust. If she has a genuine emergency, the trustee can expend funds from the trust for her, but his discretion means that no one can say that she “controls” the funds. Control equals liability. She can look her husband in the eye and tell him there are no funds for him, only for her and the children.