What Is ABLE? Should I Use That Instead of an SNT (Special Needs Trust)?

We have clients that already have a special needs trust in place that is helping them in many different ways and they wanted to know whether it would make sense for them to also have an ABLE account. They don’t see the reason for possibly having an ABLE account. There are many reasons that it actually will benefit you.  For instance, there is a specific asset limit for Supplemental Security Income, SSI, as well as Medicaid. For SSI, it’s $2,000 and that’s all the person could have in their name and still be eligible for that. The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act enables someone to create this certain kind of an account, an ABLE account, and money can be put into it that will let you have a lot more money than just $2,000. $17,000 (in 2023) can go in every single year from any source and it can build up over time. This could make a huge difference for somebody on SSI. Instead of having $2,000 available to them to make decisions and purchases and pay rent, they’ll also have this additional $17,000 per year (in 2023) or more available to them that they have complete autonomy over. Somebody who’s the beneficiary of a special needs trust can benefit from those funds but they can’t manage those funds. It’s completely out of their hands.  Somebody else is doing that for them. The other thing is that when a special needs trust uses money to pay for food or for rent, this is called in-kind support and maintenance in the SSI world, which will actually lower the amount of check that you receive every month. In other words, they consider payment for rent or the purchase of food to be income to the SSI recipient. Whereas if you use money in your ABLE account to buy food or to pay for rent, that’s not income because it’s actually extra money that you own. It’s just being used for other things that you need.