At Kallio Law Firm in Louisiana, we offer comprehensive legal services to clients throughout Prairieville, Ascension Parish, and the Greater Baton Rouge area. One of our specialties is estate planning, with a particular focus on special needs planning. For families that include a child or other relative with special needs, meeting those needs is a top priority. Our lead attorney, Eric Kallio, is dedicated to ensuring that the assets of special needs individuals are protected so that they can lead the comfortable and productive lives they deserve.
If you have a loved one with special needs, now is the time to contact Kallio Law Firm. We will discuss how best to handle the situation so your family member’s well-being is carefully safeguarded from legal and financial vulnerabilities, such as succession, scams, and excessive taxation, while maintaining their eligibility for government benefits.
Special Needs Trusts
Special Needs Trusts (SNTs), or Supplemental Needs Trusts, depending on the source of the assets, are vital instruments in special needs planning. The creation of an SNT involves a legal process in which a trust is established specifically for the benefit of an individual with disabilities. This trust, managed by a trustee, can hold a broad range of assets, including money, property, and investments. The major advantage of a special needs trust is that, because its holdings are not legally owned by the beneficiary, they do not count against their eligibility for means-tested government benefits like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Eric Kallio’s expertise is crucial in determining which type of special needs trust is required — a first-party SNT, funded by the beneficiary’s own assets, or a third-party SNT, funded by another party. Each of these trusts serves a separate purpose. A first-party trust can hold settlements, inheritances, or personal earnings, while a third-party trust is ideal for parents or relatives who want to allocate funds for the beneficiary’s future needs without impacting their government aid.
At Kallio Law Firm, we will guide you through each step of the process — from drafting the trust document, which outlines how the trust is to be managed and used for the beneficiary’s benefit, to choosing the right trustee and ensuring the SNT complies with state and federal laws.
We know how crucial it is that the special needs trust we set up will cover all of your loved one’s needs. We will make certain that the assets put aside are there to pay for necessities, like uncovered medical expenses, therapies, education, and personal care, as well as small luxuries, like occasional meals out, entertainment or vacations, all the while preserving eligibility for government benefits.
ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts offer an alternative or supplement to special needs trusts. These tax-advantaged savings accounts are designed for individuals who became disabled before age 26. An ABLE account allows for the accumulation of resources without affecting eligibility for certain public benefits. Unlike SNTs, the beneficiary of an ABLE account has more control over the account and can use it for a variety of disability-related expenses, including education, housing, and transportation.
In 2024, you are permitted to deposit $18,000 in an ABLE account annually and, if you are employed, you may be able to contribute more money out of your earnings. It’s important to be aware that you can keep up to $100,000 in an ABLE account without it impacting your SSI eligibility. Eric Kallio and his team can help you understand the nuances of ABLE accounts and how they can successfully work alongside a special needs trust, providing an even more inclusive safety net.
Because an ABLE account offers the beneficiary greater autonomy and easier access to funds, but doesn’t provide the same level of protection and flexibility as an SNT, we can assist you in incorporating both into your estate plan.
Conservatorship or Guardianship
Conservatorship and guardianship may become vital legal tools if your special needs relative is incapable of making significant decisions pertaining to finances or estate matters. It is possible that your child has reached adulthood but still needs someone else to take charge of their affairs or that another relative’s physical or mental health has deteriorated to the point that they need more than guidance in legal or estate matters. Whatever the case, establishing a conservatorship or guardianship may be the answer.
We can help you set up either one, but it’s important to understand the differences between them. Though the terms conservatorship and guardianship are sometimes used interchangeably (the term curatorship is also used in Louisiana), a conservatorship generally pertains to the management of financial and estate affairs, whereas a guardianship pertains to day-to-day healthcare, living arrangements, and overall welfare.
Our role in establishing a conservatorship or guardianship involves a detailed legal process that includes proving the necessity of such an arrangement in court and ensuring the appointed conservator or guardian acts in the best interest of the special needs individual. Eric Kallio’s has the in-depth legal knowledge and well-honed skills to ensure that the right balance is struck between providing the necessary level of care and supervision and protecting the rights of the special needs individual.
Documents to Protect Special Needs Individuals
If you have not been appointed as guardian or conservator of your special needs relative, the following documents may play a pivotal role:
Durable Mandate (known as a Power of Attorney) (POA) gives the person named the ability to sign any necessary legal papers on behalf to assist your child, including creating and funding a trust for their benefit.
Letter of Intent states clearly how your relative should be cared for if you pass away. It is a personalized document that will provide essential information about your special needs relative so their caregivers will understand what your relative enjoys, cherishes, excels at, is afraid of, is annoyed by, and most desires. Providing this information in your own words helps to ensure that your loved one will continue to receive the best possible care.
Contact Our Experienced Special Needs Planning Attorney Today
Eric Kallio is not only savvy but compassionate. As soon as you get in touch with him, you will realize that you and your loved ones are in capable, professional hands. Contact Kallio Law Firm now to discuss estate planning options for your family that include special needs planning so that all of you, especially your most vulnerable family members, are well-protected.