Jul 12, 2016

Florida ABLE Accounts now available

Florida's ABLE program is now operational. Effective July 1 (with certain restrictions which I discuss below), an individual with a qualifying disability may preserve his/her eligibility for means-tested federal government benefits while retaining more than $2,000 in assets. Assets must be held in an ABLE account, a special type of tax-advantaged savings account authorized under the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 (which I discussed previously here and here). A person who has established an ABLE account and who depends on vital government benefits such as Medicaid, SSI or SSDI will no longer be forced to remain impoverished to qualify for benefits, resulting in greater independence and better quality of life. Individuals who are able to join the workforce will be able to do so without fear of losing benefits. 

An ABLE account is a savings vehicle modeled on college savings plans. The disabled individual (or his/her parent, attorney in fact or other authorized individual) may open, contribute to and manage the account. The disabled individual is the owner and beneficiary. Growth is tax-free, and up to $100,000 of the account is considered a "non-countable resource" for Florida Medicaid eligibility purposes. Funds may be withdrawn tax-free for qualified disability expenses such as employment training, assistive technologies, transportation, special therapies, medical expenses, housing, education, etc. 

Visit ABLE United to learn more about eligibility requirements, how to open an account, types of investments available and more. Investment options may be chosen from pre-selected portfolios, or a custom portfolio may be put together from the options offered. 

As I noted above, there are some significant program restrictions:
  • The individual must have developed the qualifying disability by his/her 26th birthday. (Advocates are hopeful that the age limit can be raised or eliminated in the future.)
  • If the account owner has been receiving Medicaid benefits, the state must be paid back from any funds remaining in the account when the account-holder passes away. 
  • No more than $14,000 per year may be contributed by any individual to the account. 
  • Once the account reaches $418,000, no additional contributions can be made.
For these and additional reasons, families and individuals may still find a Special Needs Trust or a Pooled Trust a better choice, either in lieu of or in addition to an ABLE account. Unlike the ABLE account, there is no upper limit on contributions or total amount accumulated in a Special Needs Trust or Pooled Trust

Contact The Karp Law Firm if you wish to explore which option is best for your or your loved one's circumstances.

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