It is extremely important for financial advisors to be able to assist their wealthy clients with "family disasters"-particularly when they involve children.

The wealthy, of course, are just as susceptible to these problems as everyone else. Children of the rich and famous are not immune to the temptations and foolish behavior that sometimes plague the rest of this generation's youth. When children get mixed up with controlled substances such as marijuana, cocaine or heroin, or drive while intoxicated, law enforcement makes no exception for the privileged.

Financial advisors can provide their clients with a valuable service-and enhance their advisory businesses-if they have the ability to provide families with pre-crisis insights and advice, and bring in the right experts when problems arise.

What Parents Need To Know
A starting point is to give the parents the basic information they need when their children run afoul of the law. These are the things they should know if they get that dreaded call in the middle of the night from their teenage son or daughter, pleading for help from a cold, intimidating police precinct or county jail.

First, they shouldn't panic. They need to have control over the situation and provide direction to the child. They also need to keep calm because dealing with law enforcement authorities can be intimidating and anxiety-inducing. Parents need to remember that non-violent, so-called "quality of life" crimes involving drug or alcohol abuse are typically manageable. If it's a first-time offense, the child often ends up with reduced charges and no jail time.

The parents need to tell their children to remain silent and say to the police, "I want to speak to my attorney." Once an attorney is requested, police cannot talk to the child until he or she consults with counsel or recants the request in writing. Keeping silent is important because kids-in a panic over being arrested-may try to talk their way out of the situation, as they might do with their parents. Anything they say will be written down or recorded and used against them by the prosecution. If they lie, it can result in additional charges for perjury or obstruction of justice. An arrested person has no obligation to cooperate or speak with the police.

If an advisor has a solid relationship with a client who is in this type of predicament, and has had discussions on how to deal with such a crisis, it's not uncommon for the advisor to be called almost immediately. The advisor has to be able to call upon an attorney who is expert at dealing with these matters. Neither the advisor nor the parents should think they could show up at the police station and work things out. It's not up to the police to drop charges. That's a prosecutor's job.

Wealthy parents should post bail immediately. Leaving a child in jail to teach him or her "a lesson" can have disastrous consequences. Jails are filled with many unpleasant people. The child could become a victim of inmate abuse, which could produce worse psychological damage than the arrest itself. Police may also try to keep the child locked up in an effort to get him or her to confess to the charges.

Advisors need to make sure parents do not make things worse. They should, for example, know not to offer the police or the prosecution a payment to "make things go away."  That will only get the child in deeper trouble and may lead to charges against the parents.

Accepting Reality
The parents need to accept reality. For example, if the child was caught soliciting a prostitute who was really an undercover cop, or was videotaped selling cocaine to friends, the parents shouldn't delude themselves into thinking their child will simply walk away from the charges. Many jurisdictions have good programs for first-time offenders. If the case against the child is strong, the parents should settle early. The longer they wait and the harder they make the prosecution work, the worse the potential settlement.

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