Individuals with special needs and families that seek to help, have long been hamstrung by the Catch 22 of public assistance. If a family provides too much financial assistance, the beneficiary loses access to government assistance. If the family does not help the individual may suffer from lack of access to housing and education. For special needs individuals to receive an inheritance they needed a special needs trust or the inheritance was quickly depleted until the special needs individual once again attained poverty level to qualify for public assistance.
In 2014 congress passed the ABLE act to allow special needs beneficiaries’ families to establish a savings vehicle funded with up to $14,000 per year (adjusted for inflation) to supplement public assistance. The account may be used to pay for needs such as housing, education, transportation, and other expenses that improve the quality of life for those with disabilities.
Similar to 529 college saving plans, ABLE accounts are established by the states, but you can participate in the plan of a state other than your home state if you choose. The account may not hold more than $100,000 of assets without running afoul of the Supplemental Security Income rules, but still this is an improvement over the expense and complexity of using a special needs trust. For many families this account will prove invaluable.
To qualify for an account, the individual must have significant disabilities and the age at onset of the disability must be prior to attaining age 26. At the death the state where the beneficiary resides may be able to claim any balance remaining in the account under the Medicare payback rules.
Currently ABLE plans have been established by Florida, Nebraska, Ohio, and Tennessee. If you are not a resident of one of these states non-residents are allowed to establish accounts in Nebraska, Ohio, and Tennessee. For more information, you can visit the ABLE National Resource Center online.