ABLE Accounts in Georgia: Savings Options for Disability Expenses

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Discover how ABLE Accounts in Georgia provide financial empowerment for individuals with disabilities. Let The Law Office of Paul Black help you secure the financial future of your loved ones.

Author: Paul Black

Paul’s experience as the son of two parents with big health challenges is what led him to the work he does today and gives him first-hand knowledge of the challenges that many caregivers and family members face. After graduation from GSU Law, Paul was chosen from dozens of applicants nationwide as one of three 2010-2011 Borchard Foundation Law & Aging Fellows. Paul has been named as  a SuperLawyers “Rising Star” in the area of Estate Planning and as a member of Georgia’s “Legal Elite” by Georgia Trend magazine. Published on: May 17, 2024.

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An ABLE account is a tax-advantaged savings option for people with disabilities that does not affect their eligibility for crucial public benefits. These accounts were created through the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act to help individuals with disabilities and their families save for future needs.

ABLE accounts are important because they allow individuals to save money for disability-related expenses while maintaining eligibility for means-tested benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). With careful financial planning, including the use of ABLE accounts, people with disabilities can achieve greater financial security and independence.

At the Law Office of Paul Black in Georgia, we understand the unique challenges of estate planning for people with special needs. We provide personalized strategies to ensure financial security and legal protection, helping our clients make informed decisions that support their long-term goals.

Benefits of ABLE Accounts

The ABLE program offers a safe haven for assets and a way to facilitate expenses without compromising crucial benefits. Below are some of the benefits of ABLE Accounts. 

Tax Advantages

One of the most significant benefits of ABLE accounts is the tax-free growth of investments. Any income generated by the assets in the account, including interest, dividends, or capital gains, is not taxed as long as the funds are used for qualified disability expenses. This feature makes ABLE accounts an attractive option for long-term savings.

Preserving Benefit Eligibility

Funds in these accounts do not count against the $2,000 asset limit for means-tested federal programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. This allows people with disabilities to maintain their eligibility for these vital services while saving for the future.

  • Freedom to Save: Anyone can contribute to your ABLE account—family, friends, or the account beneficiary themselves. This flexibility allows for a collective effort in building a financial cushion.
  • Variety of Uses: The funds can be used for an array of qualifying expenses such as education, healthcare, housing, and transportation. These expenses directly relate to the beneficiary’s disability and aid in improving their quality of life.

Financial Autonomy

Beneficiaries of ABLE accounts have the opportunity to manage their finances and make spending decisions, fostering a sense of independence and empowerment.

Flexibility in Spending

ABLE accounts provide flexibility in how the funds can be used as long as the expenses are related to the account beneficiary’s disability. This can include various costs such as medical and dental care, education, housing, transportation, employment training, assistive technology, personal support services, and other disability-related expenses.

Estate Planning and Financial Security

ABLE accounts also play an important role in estate planning for families with disabled members. They provide a way to accumulate and manage funds that safeguard the beneficiary’s future while ensuring they remain eligible for public benefits.

With these benefits, ABLE accounts provide a foundation upon which individuals with disabilities can construct a more stable and fulfilling life while still receiving the support they need.

Eligibility Criteria for Georgia STABLE Accounts

Georgia STABLE accounts are designed to support individuals with disabilities by offering a savings option that does not affect their eligibility for federal benefits. Here are the essential eligibility requirements for opening a Georgia STABLE account:

Age of Onset of Disability

One must have a disability that began before age 26. This is a requirement for all ABLE accounts, as specified by the federal legislation under the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act.

Severity of Disability

The disability must meet the severity criteria defined by the Social Security Administration. This includes disabilities listed in the Social Security Blue Book of Impairments, which details conditions that qualify for disability benefits.

Receipt of Benefits

A person is eligible for a Georgia STABLE account if they are already receiving benefits under Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Recipients of these benefits automatically meet the disability severity criteria. 

Certification of Disability

For people not receiving SSI or SSDI benefits, eligibility can still be established through a certification process. This involves providing a diagnosis from a licensed physician that confirms the individual meets the disability criteria similar to those required for SSI or SSDI.

Residency

While Georgia residents may benefit from state-specific features of the Georgia STABLE program, the ABLE account program is national. Therefore, people from any state can open a Georgia STABLE account, not just those residing in Georgia.

These criteria ensure that ABLE accounts are accessible to those who most need them. They provide a valuable financial tool for people with disabilities to maintain their health, independence, and quality of life. You can gather all the information you need at the ABLE National Resource Center here.  

Setting Up an ABLE Account in Georgia

Have you considered the financial future of your loved ones with disabilities? Establishing an ABLE account in Georgia offers a pathway to greater financial stability. By facilitating an ABLE account, families can save for the future without jeopardizing eligibility for essential public benefits. Georgia has partnered with the Sumday Administration to ensure the process is smooth for you to open a STABLE Account. 

Here’s how you set up an ABLE Account in Georgia:

Step 1: Check if you qualify

  • Individuals with a qualifying disability before the age of 26
  • Receipt of SSI/SSDI benefits or certification by a physician

Step 2: Documents needed

  • Personal identification documents (such as a driver’s license or passport)
  • Social Security Number or Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Medical documentation if not receiving SSI/SSDI benefits

Step 3: Opening the Account

Opening a Georgia STABLE account requires visiting the official website and following the guided process.

Financial Aspects to Consider:

  • A $25 fee for a STABLE account opening
  • An account maintenance fee of $27 per year, which is $6.75 every quarter
  • A debit card fee of $5
  • If you opt for your statement to be printed or mailed, you incur an annual cost of $10, but it’s free if sent virtually. 
  • A maximum contribution limit of $541,000

At The Law Office of Paul Black, we understand the importance of planning for the future of family members with disabilities, which is why we want to be with you every step. 

ABLE Accounts Versus Special Needs Trusts

Consider the importance of financial planning in securing the future of people with disabilities. The options are broad, including ABLE accounts and special needs trusts (SNTs), each providing unique benefits tailored to different needs and circumstances. Selecting the right one is crucial.

ABLE Accounts: Easy to set up and generally less costly than SNTs. These accounts allow for greater independence. They benefit those who meet the eligibility requirements, which are restricted to individuals whose disability began before age 26.

Pros:

  • Ease of creation
  • Relatively low costs
  • Direct account control by the beneficiary

Cons:

  • Limited to people who meet specific age and disability onset requirements
  • Annual contribution limit
  • Impact on public benefits if account balance exceeds $100,000

Special Needs Trusts: Unlike ABLE accounts, SNTs have no eligibility criteria tied to age or disability onset. With no cap on funding, they are a solid choice for those looking to secure larger amounts without affecting public benefits.

Pros:

  • No eligibility criteria based on age or onset of disability
  • Allows for unlimited contributions without affecting certain public benefits

Cons:

  • Higher costs to establish and maintain
  • Less direct access for the beneficiary

Professional and legal guidance is essential when setting up a Georgia STABLE account or a special needs trust. Trusts are complex hence the need to have legal advice before settling. We stress the importance of SNTs for their financial benefits and the detailed legal protection they offer.

At the Law Office of Paul Black, we understand the importance of a tailored fit in financial and legal planning for special needs individuals. Our practice areas include but are not limited to special needs planning and incapacity planning. It’s essential to choose a solution that fits your loved one. 

ABLE Account vs Special Needs Trust: How The Law Office of Paul Black Can Help

Planning for the future of a loved one with disabilities can be overwhelming. ABLE accounts and Special Needs Trusts (SNTs) are vital financial tools, yet they differ in structure, benefits, and limitations.

ABLE Accounts offer a tax-advantaged way to save for individuals with disabilities. Funds in these accounts can cover a wide array of qualified disability expenses (QDEs), extending account holders a sense of financial freedom.

  • Annual contribution limits: The total annual contribution cannot exceed $15,000 from all sources.
  • Resource limits: ABLE account balances below $100,000 do not affect SSI eligibility.
  • Tax benefits: Earnings grow tax-free if used for qualified disability expenses.

Special Needs Trusts provide a means to manage assets for individuals with special needs without compromising their eligibility for public assistance programs.

  • No contribution limits: No cap on how much can be contributed annually.
  • No resource limits: As an irrevocable trust, it does not count towards resource limits for SSI and Medicaid.
  • Flexible uses: SNTs can pay for non-qualified expenses without tax penalties.

At The Law Office of Paul Black, we are committed to alleviating our clients’ concerns and providing practical solutions such as administrative services. Our goal is to simplify the planning process and give our clients peace of mind by creating reliable and strategic plans that protect the interests and dignity of their loved ones.

Speak With Our Special Needs Planning Attorney

It’s important to get a Special Needs Planning Attorney who can advise you on what to do and the benefits of each option. It would help if you had somebody who will be with you every step of the way. 

At the Law Office of Paul Black, we’d be delighted to help you through the process. Contact us, and let us guide you. 

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