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Five Things You Need to Know About the Recently Enacted ABLE Act

What You Need to Know About the ABLE Act and special needs planning

On December 19, 2014, President Obama signed the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act) into law. The ABLE Act will allow special needs individuals or certain individuals with disabilities to establish tax-free savings accounts that can be used to cover expenses not otherwise covered by government sponsored programs. These accounts can be a great alternative or supplement to special needs or supplemental needs trusts.

 

5 important things you need to know about the ABLE Act:

 

  1. What is an ABLE account?

    An ABLE account is similar to a 529 education savings account that helps families save for college. It is a tax-free, state-based private savings account that can be used to pay for the care of special needs individuals. Although income earned in the account will not be taxed, contributions to the account will not be tax deductible.

 

  1. Who is eligible for an ABLE account?

    Eligibility will be limited to individuals with significant disabilities with an age of onset of disability before turning 26 years of age. If an individual meets these criteria and is also receiving benefits under SSI and/or SSDI, they are automatically eligible to establish an ABLE account. If the individual is not a recipient of SSI and/or SSDI but still meets the age of onset disability requirement, they will still be eligible to open an ABLE account if the SSI criteria regarding significant functional limitations are met. In addition, the disabled individual may be over the age of 26 and establish an account if the individual has documentation of their disability that shows the age of onset occurred before the age of 26.

 

  1. What are the limits for contributions to an ABLE account?

    Each individual state will determine the total limit that can be contributed to an ABLE account over time. Although we’ll need to wait for regulations to know the exact amount that can be contributed, the Act states that any individual can make annual contributions to an ABLE account up to the gift tax exemption limit (which is $14,000 in 2016). If the disabled individual is receiving SSI and Medicaid, the first $100,000 held in an ABLE account will be exempted from the SSI $2,000 individual resource limit. If an ABLE account exceeds $100,000, the account beneficiary will be suspended from eligibility for SSI benefits but will continue to be eligible for Medicaid. Upon the death of the account beneficiary, assets remaining in the ABLE account will be reimbursed to any state Medicaid plan that provided assistance from the day the ABLE account was established.

 

  1. What types of expenses can be paid from an ABLE account?

    An ABLE account may be used to pay for a “qualified disability expense,” which means any expense related to the beneficiary as a result of living with their disability. These expenses may include medical and dental care, education, employment training, housing, assistive technology, personal support services, health care expenses, financial management, and administrative services.

  2. When will able accounts be available?

    Although the ABLE Act was signed into law in December 2014, its implementation was delayed due to the drafting of regulations by the Department of Treasury before states can begin to set up procedures for managing ABLE accounts. At the end of the 2016 legislative session, the Maryland State Assembly passed House Bill 431, Maryland Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Program. This Bill created Maryland’s ABLE program and was signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan. Maryland’s ABLE program becomes operational in 2017!

 

Since the money in an ABLE account can grow tax free and be accessed on a tax-free basis for qualifying expenses, these accounts could be a valuable resource for special needs individuals and their families. Although we’re waiting on full implementation of the ABLE program, now is the time to begin thinking about whether an ABLE account is a good fit for your family’s circumstances.

 

To learn more about Maryland ABLE accounts and special needs planning, please contact McDonald Law Firm today. Andre O. McDonald, a knowledgeable Howard County special needs planning attorney, looks forward to serving you.

 

DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION POSTED ON THIS BLOG IS INTENDED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT INTENDED TO CONVEY LEGAL ADVICE.

 

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For help with estate planning, special needs planning, elder law or Veteran's Pension Planning needs throughout Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, and Baltimore County; and Baltimore City, contact McDonald Law Firm, LLC.

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