Ottawa disabilities and estate planning lawyer Kenneth Pope works within a narrow niche, but he says there are many more people in Ontario he can help.
Pope, principal of Kenneth C. Pope Law, concentrates his practice in areas that help families who have members with special needs to access funding and plan for their future.
In his recently released video, Pope explains how he was maintaining a general law practice some years ago when he came across a large population of people who needed assistance navigating a complicated system.
“I’m the only lawyer in Ontario who focuses on all of these specific areas,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.
Pope’s services include:
Pope spent the earlier part of his legal career working on law related to non-profit and co-operative housing development and then moved on to a general practice. But that changed in 1996 when he was asked to address the Ottawa chapter of the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario.
He developed his presentation from a binder of material that had been compiled by the ARCH Disability Law Centre in Toronto. That included reference to the still largely unknown Henson Trust, which is based on an Ontario court case.
“I realized that there were thousands of families who didn’t know how much they needed a Henson Trust. It wasn’t something that people were familiar with,” says Pope. “Of the very few who did know about it, they were somehow getting copies of the decision, taking them to lawyers and telling them what they needed because, in many cases, the lawyers didn’t know.
“I thought from the perspective of doing good and doing well, here’s a service that people don’t know they need, and I can provide it.”
The case centres around an absolute discretionary trust that Leonard Henson, of Guelph, Ont., set up for his daughter, Pope says. The appeal court ultimately concluded that a special trust established for a person with special needs does not disqualify them from provincial disability credits.
He then began doing seminars to get the word out to families who have children with special needs, partnering with an insurance broker who Pope says established the province’s first Henson Trust for the broker's sister.
“Over the years I found out what the families needed to be done and taught myself to do it,” he says. “It’s a one-stop shop for the vital services for families with people with special needs.”
Pope helps create wills, including Henson Trusts, to provide for the child when the parents are gone.
He says it provides parents with peace of mind because their primary concern is what will happen to their offspring once they are no longer there to care and provide for them.
“I remember a mother who said to me, ‘I just want to live one day longer than my daughter,’” says Pope, explaining that parents are the lifelong caregivers of their children with disabilities. “There are many situations where the surviving parent is the child’s only friend.”
He says there are more than 460,000 Ontario families, or one family in 10, with children with special needs and they can all benefit from a Henson Trust, which is almost invariably needed because many of these children generally won't be able to handle an inheritance, and there is also a risk that an inheritance will be mishandled or misused.
In addition, if the child accepts an inheritance, they would be disqualified from provincial disability benefits, he says.
“As a lawyer and a person, it allows me to do good and do well. Very few lawyers have the opportunity I've had,” Pope says.