Ronald Fatoullah & Associates - Elder Law

The ABLE Act New Tax-Free Saving Accounts for Individuals with Disabilities

The-ABLE-Act-New-Tax-Free-Saving-Accounts-For-Individuals-With-Disabilities-DPLIC.jpg{3:12 minutes to read} Congress just enacted a new law that will allow any individual who is disabled and became so prior to turning the age of 26 years to set aside up to $14,000 per year in a tax-free savings account without affecting his/her eligibility for government benefits. Only one account may be established per disabled person, however multiple persons may contribute to such account.

Any contribution must be made in cash and the aggregate contribution by a single individual may not exceed the annual gift tax exclusion in effect for that particular year. The gift tax exclusion for 2014 and 2015 is $14,000.

Under the Achieving a Better Life Experience ("ABLE") Act, the tax-free savings accounts can be used to pay for qualifying expenses such as the costs of treating the disability or for education, housing and health care, among other "disability-related expenses."

The existence of the accounts will not compromise the individual's ability to qualify for benefits like SSI (Supplemental Security Income) or Medicaid as long as the account balance does not exceed $100,000.

Pursuant to the ABLE Act, states must establish programs for families to invest in the new so-called "529A accounts" and provide investment options as well. The Act takes effect at the beginning of 2015, which means that states will have to act soon to regulate these new accounts. Once in place, ABLE accounts will become one more tool available to families of those with special needs to enable them to protect their loved ones' valuable benefits while trying to simultaneously provide a good quality of life.

Even though the intent behind the law is a good one, due to the requirement that the disability must have occurred prior to the person attaining the age of 26, the law prevents saving for disabilities that come later in life, such as dementia or severe arthritis. Furthermore, this law helps disabled individuals who are connected to relatives or friends who have the means to contribute to these accounts. It does not, however, address the needs of those individuals from truly low-income families who may not have the wherewithal to fund these accounts.

The law's age-26 cutoff was part of a compromise to decrease the bill's original projected price tag from $20 billion to $2 billion over 10 years. The cost was reportedly paid for by tightening a variety of Social Security and Medicare rules.

While it might take time for the ABLE program to be established in New York State, we will continue to study the Act and track the progress of its implementation. The ABLE Act is a step in the right direction in terms of championing the rights of and enhancing the lives of many disabled individuals. It certainly is a nice way to kick off the New Year.

Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. is the principal of Ronald Fatoullah & Associates, a law firm that exclusively concentrates in elder law, special needs planning, estate planning, Medicaid planning, guardianships, estate administration, trusts, wills, and real estate. Debby Rosenfeld, Esq. is a senior staff attorney at the firm. The law firm can be reached at 718-261-1700, 516-466-4422, or toll free at 1-877-ELDER-LAW or 1-877-ESTATES.

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