The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which was created by Congress in 2014, allows people with disabilities and their families to save up to $100,000 in accounts for the benefit of a disabled person. The funds can be saved without jeopardizing the individual’s eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and other government benefits. ABLE accounts may be opened by anyone with a disability as long as the disability began before the person turned 26.
Starting in 2018, the amount of money that can be deposited in an ABLE account per year without jeopardizing public benefits will rise from $14,000 to $15,000. The amount that can be deposited in an ABLE account is tied to the federal gift tax exclusion, which has also risen to $15,000.
Other changes to the program in 2018 include the following:
- Traditional 529 plans can now be rolled into ABLE accounts. This helps parents utilize funds that were accumulated in traditional college savings plans before learning their child had a disability.
- Individuals with disabilities who are working may be able to save up to the federal poverty level. Rather than savings being capped at $15,000 per year, in some cases the new law will allow people with disabilities to save their earnings beyond that threshold up to the federal poverty level to potentially accumulate as much as $27,060 per year in savings.
- A note of caution: there are no real “safeguards” built into the legislation to help people monitor contributions that go over $15,000. There have been delays implementing this new part of the law, as financial professionals fear that mistakes are easy to make, and benefits could inadvertently be jeopardized.
Setting up an ABLE account is often a solid way to save money toward future expenses for an individual with disabilities. As with most federal or state programs, there are intricacies in the rules that should be understood prior to establishing an account. I encourage you to seek the assistance of a qualified Marietta Special Needs Lawyer to ensure that you understand the process before tying up your funds.
If you would like to speak to an attorney about the creation of an ABLE Account or to create an ABLE account in conjunction with a Special Needs Trust for your disabled loved one, please contact our Marietta special needs attorneys at 770-425-6060 to schedule a consultation.
Stephen M. Worrall, Marietta Estate Planning, Elder Law and Probate Attorney at Georgia Estate Plan: Worrall Law LLC, has been selected to the 2018 Georgia Super Lawyers list. He was named as a Top Estate Planning and Probate Lawyer, one of only 34 named in that practice area in Georgia this year. No more than five percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by Super Lawyers.
Super Lawyers, part of Thomson Reuters, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.
The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country.In Georgia, the results are posted in Atlanta Magazine. Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in their practice of law. For more information about Super Lawyers, go to SuperLawyers.com. To see Mr. Worrall’s listing, go here.
After the loss of a loved one, there’s so much to do. You need to communicate with family members, plan the funeral, and begin the process of settling their estate. As a Marietta probate lawyer, I can help you along these lines by giving you a list of important documents that you should gather to begin closing out his or her final affairs. The documents needed will vary depending on the person and their assets. As you start preparing, keep your eye out for the following:
- Account statements – This may include bank statements, investment accounts, 401(k)s, IRAs, pensions, health savings accounts, annuities, and 403(b)s. It is best that these statements are dated as close to the date of death as possible.
- Life insurance policies –If you are not sure if your loved one had a life insurance policy, check their bank statements to see if they were making payments to a life insurance company. Some people make their life insurance policy payments yearly instead of monthly. Also, if they were employed, you can check with their employer to see if they had a life insurance policy through their company. If they once served in the military you should check with the Department of Veterans Affairs as well.
- Beneficiary designations – These may include beneficiary designations for life insurance, retirement accounts (IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and annuities), payable on death accounts, transfer on death accounts, and health savings accounts.
- Deeds for real estate – If the deeds are not available, many states will now allow you to view and print copies of deeds online.
- Automobile and boat titles – If you cannot locate these, you can contact the department of motor vehicles.
- Stock and bond certificates – Including cooperate certificates and local and state bonds.
- Business documents – If your loved one owned a small business, it is important to locate important documents for the company as well. These may include bank and investment statements, corporate records, tax returns, business licenses, deeds for property, loan documents, contracts, bills, and employee records.
- Bills – This will include utilities, cell phones, credit cards, personal loans, property taxes, insurance (real estate, automobile, boat), storage units, medical bills, and the funeral bill. Check their bank statements to see if the deceased was making regular payments to a company and contact that company for copies of the bills.
- Estate planning documents – Last Will and Testament, revocable living trust, etc.
- Other legal documents – Prenuptial Agreement, Postnuptial Agreement, leases (real estate, automobile), and loan documents (personal loans, mortgages, lines of credit).
- Tax returns – Both federal and state returns for the last 3 years.
- Death certificate – It is advised to order at least 10 copies of the original death certificate so you don’t have to keep ordering them.
If you are overwhelmed and would like help in settling your parent’s affairs, feel free to call our Marietta probate lawyers at 770-425-6060, and we can help you get through the process as quickly as possible.
Blended families are becoming more and more common in modern society, yet, estate laws remain largely unchanged and still geared toward a “traditional” family structure. This poses an issue for a Marietta estate attorney when it comes to leaving an inheritance for step-children in an estate plan. Step-children are often not legally adopted by the new spouse, which means they are not considered as “heirs” for inheritance purposes. However, a solid estate plan can help you work around laws of Georgia to ensure your step-children are not left out.
The easiest way to leave assets to step-children is to name them in a will or trust. Assets can be left in the form of a percentage of the estate, or by specific assets. If there are other children involved, it is important to avoid confusion by naming each child and step-child using their individual names, rather than terms such as “descendants,” “heirs,” or even “children.”
There are also a number of estate planning tools that can be used to include step-children in an inheritance. If the objective is to avoid probate, a revocable living trust can be established in which a step-child is named as a beneficiary. If a step-child is disabled, it may be necessary to establish a special needs trust to maintain their eligibility for government programs. Lastly, a step-child can also be named as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy or a Pay-On-Death financial account.
While there is no legal obligation to leave step-children an inheritance, it may be the best choice when there’s a close relationship or the step-parent played a significant role in raising the child. Obviously, leaving money to step-children means the amount of assets available to other biological children will be reduced. If you expect that this will cause conflict, it would be helpful to explain these decisions to all family members in advance. By engaging in an open and honest dialogue, you can minimize the potential for family squabbles and the possibility of a will contest. During the conversation you could clarify why you included each beneficiary (including step-children), why you selected the person who will serve as your executor, and your thoughts about the family.
If you want to make sure that your step-children will receive the assets you choose to leave them, you should speak with an experienced Cobb County estate planning lawyer. To schedule a consultation at our Marietta estate planning law firm, simply call the office at 770-425-6060.
When a Marietta special needs lawyer is creating a special needs plan for a loved one with disabilities, it’s the hope that all family members are in agreement and ideally on the same page. But, even if everyone is working together, there can be issues when the parents are divorced. Often, there are separate estates, separate finances, and other factors to consider for both parents when creating trusts and other care plans for children with special needs. By facing the following challenges now, divorced parents have the best chance of creating solid plans for the future:
Understand that you two may have distinct financial and familial obligations. Remarriage and new families may make less money available for special needs planning. One parent may rely on the other to financially back any plans without fully understanding whether the other parent can do what is expected. Since divorced parents’ finances are separate, one parent cannot obligate the other to invest in or pay for something. Also, considering that lump sum inheritances can disqualify your child with special needs from receiving SSI and Medicaid, it’s best to make sure neither of you will accidentally undermine the other’s planning due to unintended consequences of your estate.
Work out any differences in opinion or desired outcomes. Parents may not want the same the thing for their adult child with disabilities, even though they both want the best. This can result in fights and disputes, which can turn ugly and contentious if not resolved. Hiring a Marietta lawyer to handle your child’s special needs plan means having a knowledgeable neutral party working in the best interest of your child, no matter what happens between the two of you.
Decide if one parent should take the lead. If a child with disabilities primarily lives with one parent who is more involved in the child’s ongoing care, then it may be in the best interest of the child for the more involved parent to take the lead and do the lion’s share of the planning. If one parent takes on more responsibility, that parent should strive to keep the other in the loop, while the other pledges support, both emotional and financial.
Make sure all families know what’s going on. Your child may have family members on both sides that don’t communicate with each other or know what’s planned. More importantly, they may have siblings, half-siblings, and step-siblings who may be very concerned about your plans, and especially with any lack of planning. Just because you’ve asked one or all of your children to take over for you when you’re gone, doesn’t mean they can just slip into your place, even if they have the time and means to do so. All parties who would be interested should be kept in the loop to avoid any arguments or fights over your child’s plan when you’re gone.
Special needs planning in Georgia can be just as unique as your own family. Contact our Marietta special needs attorney at 770-425-6060 when you’re ready to start planning. We have the experience and knowledge to work with challenges like divorced and blended families to create the right plan for your child and your family.