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Milford Special Needs Attorney on the Differences between an ABLE Account and a Special Needs Trust

  • By Steven Rubin
  • |
  • Posted December 20, 2022

Individuals who have disabilities often require government assistance to cover the costs of professional support and care. However, programs such as Medicaid and Supplementary Security Income (SSI) are means-tested, so eligibility is determined based on an individual’s or family’s income and assets. People who have disabilities must carefully manage their finances in a way that allows them to qualify for the help they need.

Two common options are ABLE accounts and Special Needs Trusts. Understanding the differences between these two financial planning tools can help you determine which might work best for you. Keep reading to learn more or contact our Milford, CT special needs planning and trust lawyers today.

What Is a Special Needs Trust?

A Special Needs Trust provides a legal relationship between a trustee and a beneficiary who has a disability. This specialized trust ensures that a person with a disability qualifies for government benefits. There are two types of Special Needs Trusts:

  • A third-party trust is funded by someone other than the beneficiary, often the parents of a child with a disability. The trustee will distribute the funds according to the child’s needs.
  • A first-party trust is funded by the assets of the individual with a disability. This shields an individual’s earned or inherited income so that the individual does not exceed Medicaid or SSI income or asset limits. After the beneficiary’s death, Medicaid may claim any funds remaining in the trust.

There are limits on how funds from Special Needs Trusts can be used. The funds cannot go toward basic expenses otherwise funded by government programs. This includes:

  • Groceries
  • Medical expenses
  • Housing expenses

We provide special needs trust and planning services and can assist you with ABLE account setup and administration.

What Is an ABLE Account?

The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014 established state-run savings programs, called ABLE accounts, for people with disabilities. These tax-advantaged savings accounts hold funds exempt from Medicaid and SSI asset and income limits. They are available to people diagnosed with a disability before age 26.

Unlike trusts, which the trustee controls, the beneficiary of an ABLE account always maintains control over the funds within it. These funds can be used for expenses such as:

  • Education
  • Food
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Employment training
  • Assistive technology
  • Personal support services
  • Healthcare expenses
  • Financial management

Contributions to an ABLE account can be made by family members, friends, or the beneficiary. They are relatively easy to establish and can be funded immediately with small amounts. However, keep in mind that contributions may not exceed $15,000 per year, and the total amount in the account may not exceed $100,000. Otherwise, the beneficiary risks being disqualified from means-tested government benefits. Furthermore, ABLE accounts are not available in every state.

Speak to a Milford Special Needs Attorney

If you have concerns about whether income or assets might disqualify you or a loved one from receiving government assistance, speak to our experienced Milford special needs attorneys today. We can advise you on whether an ABLE account, Special Needs Trust, or both might be right for you. Contact us at 203-877-7511 to schedule a consultation.

Contact our special needs planning lawyers located in Milford and Harford, Connecticut.