Able Accounts and Special Needs Trusts = A Better Life Experience!

We all want to achieve a “better life experience” for our loved ones with special needs. The ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014) account allows you to do just that, allowing many people with special needs or their families to establish tax free savings accounts that won’t affect their ability to qualify for, or remain on, government assistance as long as the account balance does not exceed $100,000. The accounts can be used either alone or what seems to be the winning combination, in conjunction with a special needs trust (SNT), making a sustainable impact on a child with special needs. Increasingly, families are opting for the benefits of both.

ABLE accounts are only available to individuals whose qualifying disability occurred prior to their turning 26, which leaves out a huge percentage of the special needs population.  In addition, there are limits to both annual and lifetime ABLE contributions.  On the other hand, beneficiaries can directly manage ABLE funds, unlike SNTs, which are managed at the sole discretion of a trustee.

Without all the necessary details you will need (contact Cary or Valerie for more details), here are some key areas that differentiate between the ABLE accounts and special needs trusts (SNTs):



ABLE accounts enable individuals with disabilities to handle their own resources while maintaining their financial security.

Families may begin by planning to contribute the annual maximum ($15,000 in 2019). That could pose a challenge for many families with children with disabilities. There are many creative financial ways to fund these accounts.


Approaching Adulthood

This is a game changer when someone turns 18. Many individuals with disabilities first become eligible for SSI at the same time that other programs are no longer open to them.


Housing Costs

Another major advantage to ABLE accounts is that, unlike SNTs, they can pay housing expenses without affecting SSI (Supplemental Security Income), which is intended to cover food and shelter.


Handling an Inheritance

An ABLE account is not ideal for handling large inheritances, therefore, giving the opportunity for the SNT to hold the larger amount while the ABLE account holds the smaller amount.


Continued Confusion

Many have not heard of an ABLE account and the government regulations that go with it…. Medicaid payback, taxes, etc. So much detail…. you need to contact your special needs planner.


One, Both, or Neither

Neither an SNT nor an ABLE account is perfection. Sometimes they’re great in combination, sometimes one or the other suffices, and sometimes an individual doesn’t need the asset protection provided by either of them.

When it comes to planning a “better life” for your child, it is important not only to consider the advantages of an ABLE account standing alone, but also to realize that an ABLE account can be (increasing popularity) used in conjunction with a special needs trust, developing a strategy that best fits your child’s needs for now and in the future.

To explore how an ABLE account might benefit your child with special needs, please contact us. We are happy to sit down with you and your family and talk about what is the “perfect” situation for you obtaining that “better life experience” for your child.

Cary and Valerie

Cucinelli Geiger, PC