Many people are familiar with trusts as tools for special needs planning. Not only will a trust ensure that money set aside for a disabled person’s care is used for that purpose, it can also help an individual remain eligible for benefit programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. Recently, the state of Florida began the ABLE United program which created a new way to save money for the use of a disabled person without adding to his or her assets.

The ABLE United program was created after the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. The ABLE Act created savings accounts similar to those used by many families to save for children’s college education. In order to take advantage of the Florida ABLE program, the disabled individual must be a Florida resident, and must have a qualifying disability with an onset before the age of 26. Annual contributions can total no more than $14,000, and the total in the account cannot exceed $418,000. Deposited monies can be invested in a predesigned or custom portfolio. Funds can be withdrawn at any time, and can be spent on any of a number of living expenses, including housing, education, health care and transportation.

ABLE United accounts can be opened and managed by the disabled individual, or by anyone legally authorized to act on his or her behalf, such as a parent or legal guardian. Adding an account like this to a special needs plan can increase the amount of easily accessible funds to support the daily needs of a disabled person. However, before establishing an ABLE account as part of an estate plan, consultation with an experienced trusts and estates attorney is recommended.