and Able Accounts


Guardianship and other legal documents are available when your son or daughter becomes 18 and declared an adult. It may be in the best interest of that individual to have the guidance of trusted family members to make life decisions. But it is also important that an adult with a disability enjoy the right to make choices he or she understands. 

Medical, education, state, and financial services require consent to participate in and make informed decisions.  A parent or family member can not legally sign for an individual after they reach their 18th birthday.  It is recommended to begin the guardianship process 90 days before your family member becomes 18 years old.

The Guardianship process is one method to determine the ability of an individual to make informed decisions and evaluate which level of guardianship is appropriate. Once guardianship is granted a family member can guide decisions and sign documents on the individual’s behalf.

Special Needs Trusts

It is natural for parents to plan for their children’s financial future. A Special Needs Trust is a tool to assist parents in providing for long term needs of their son or daughter.

A Special Needs Trust is a legal document written to benefit a person with special needs to supplement any benefits the person with special needs may receive from government programs. A properly written Special Needs Trust will protect the individual’s government benefits while the person is receiving funds from the trust. It can be written as a guide to the specific financial needs to achieve developmental, educational, and recreational goals the person will pursue. Example: Funding a gym membership or season tickets to a favorite sports team.

It is important to engage an attorney that is licensed in your state and that specializes in special needs trust. Writing a will at the same time is helpful to designate specific proceeds of an estate to the Special Needs Trust and establish guardianship of a minor child.

There are many options to fund a Special Needs Trust. Most commonly proceeds from life insurance policies, investments, and gifts from families. It is suggested to consult a financial and tax advisor to create a plan for funding the trust.

Down Syndrome of Louisville hosts Special Needs Trust parent trainings each year in both Kentucky and Indiana presented by local attorneys and financial advisors.

ABLE Accounts

Able Accounts do not replace the need for a Special Needs Trust but is an additional option to provide financial stability and protect benefits for an individual with special needs. ABLE Accounts, which are tax-advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities and their families, were created as a result of the passage of the Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 or better known as the ABLE Act.

The beneficiary of the account is the account owner, and income earned by the accounts will not be taxed. Contributions to the account, which can be made by any person (the account beneficiary, family, friends Special Needs Trust or Pooled Trust), must be made using post-taxed dollars and will not be tax deductible for purposes of federal taxes; however, some states may allow for state income tax deductions for contributions made to an ABLE account.

The total annual contributions by all participating individuals, including family and friends, for a single tax year, is $15,000. The amount may be adjusted periodically to account for inflation. Under current tax law, $15,000 is the maximum amount that individuals can make as a gift to someone else and not report the gift to the IRS (gift tax exclusion).

Helpful tip- Coordinate opening an Able account with a Special Needs attorney, financial planner, and tax consultant…

Kentucky Residents –

Indiana Residents –


Interested in learning more about Guardianship and Special Needs Trusts from several local experts? Check out our Kindness Warrior Podcast Episodes covering those topics!

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