Alicia and Edwin Sharpe
Alicia Sharpe and her husband Edwin are both 40-something professionals and self-described “planners.” It was their daughter Brooke who taught them, however, that no matter how solid the plans, life sometimes steps in to make you change them.
Brooke was diagnosed with autism at age two, which compelled her parents to re-evaluate how they viewed their future - and Brooke’s.
“It’s a bit of a shock when you find out you have a child with a potentially life-long condition,” Alicia said. “All your hopes for your child have to shift. Instead of planning for her college, we would need to save for the expenses of her care and determine
how much we could leave for her.”
As Alicia and Edwin began to make a new plan, they were surprised to learn how the laws, as they were then written, seemed to be working against them. Parents couldn’t put money aside for a child with a disability without potentially compromising the child’s government benefits. “After working for so many years and contributing to these very benefits, Brooke could not be a beneficiary in our will, insurance policies or investments. She could not have anything in her name,” said Alicia. “It meant we could not proactively plan. We couldn’t set up a savings account in her name or even leave her property,” she said.
Fortunately, that all changed when the launch of the Palmetto ABLE Savings Program was announced by State Treasurer Curtis Loftis, the plan’s administrator. “As an employee at the State Treasurer’s Office, I have witnessed the Treasurer’s work behind the scenes to promote this new program,” said Alicia. “I’ve seen the empathy he has for ABLE account owners and how passionate he is about the program’s mission.”
Brooke, now age 8 and a student at the Autism Academy of South Carolina, was among the first enrollees in South Carolina’s program. Since enrolling, both Alicia and Edwin are strong supporters of the program. "Even if you can only contribute a small amount at a time, you should do it for your child,” Alicia said.
The Sharpes are also happy that everyone in their family can help. “Brooke was born on Christmas day. Because of the Palmetto ABLE Savings Program, we can now put the money she receives for Christmas and her birthday in an account in her name,” Alicia said. “It gives mom and dad and the rest of our family the opportunity to contribute to her future.”
“Brooke is our only child,” Alicia continued. “Having funds in an ABLE account to take care of her when we’re not here gives us the greatest peace of mind.”
To find out if you or a loved one is eligible to open a Palmetto ABLE® account, visit PalmettoABLE.com.