Make A Plan: Finance Tips for People with #Disabilities & Their Families

On May 12th, Easterseals hosted a Facebook Q&A featuring special guests from the National Disability Institute and the National ABLE resource center to tackle all things finance. These are the highlights!

  1. Patricia asked: Is a Special Needs trust fund the only option for a child/adult with special needs and if they grow up and can function on their own can these trusts be changed?

  2. The answer is no. With the option soon to be available to open an ABLE account, each family will have to consider their particular situation in terms of assets, the needs of the child or adult, and other factors regarding the interests of the family. Notable differences between an ABLE account and a special needs trust would be: 1) cost of establishing a trust, which will be significantly higher than the cost of opening an ABLE account 2) Special Needs Trust (SNT) would not independently allow an individual with a disabilty to make any decisions on the use of financial resources, whereas with an ABLE account, the beneficiary is the account owner. However, an ABLE account owner (who is the beneficiary) could have financial decisions delegated to a parent, guardian or a person with power of attorney.
  3. Stephanie asked: What is the best type of account to have money in or accumulate income in to leave my special needs child when her Dad and a I pass away?

  4. As with all managment of financial assets, the trustee should be directed to seek adivce from financial advisors to review needs and objectives.
  5. NDI response: There are too many variables to consider to be able to provide you with an absolute answer. Things to take into consideration could include: amount of money being contributed over the years, the current and future projected needs of the child/adult, and other unique family issues. We encourage you to seek the advice of a professional financial adviser with experience in working with familie with children and/or adults with disabilities.
  6. Kevin asked: What is the current status of ABLE accounts in Congress?

  7. The ABLE Act was passed and signed into law December 19, 2014. As of today, ABLE accounts are not currently available. However, we anticipate that the first programs to begin enrollment will be within the next 30-60 days. Keep in mind, you are not restricted to enrollment in your home state; you can choose which program you think will be best for you.
  8. For more information, you can watch this short informational video on "Becoming ABLE Ready":  http://ablenrc.org/about/becoming-able-ready 
  9. There will be a free webinar on May 26 at 2 p.m. (ET) discussing more information on becoming ABLE ready!  http://ablenrc.org/events/webinar-becoming-able-ready-choosing-right-program-you 
  10. Kevin asked: How do you suggest a budget when someone's cash benefits can change so frequently?"

  11. NDI response: It is not unusual for an individual's income and/or cash benefits to fluctuate during the course of a year or over a longer term. It is important to regularly review your financial status and evolving needs to revise when necessary your financial budget. If possible, we would encourage you to create savings accounts that will not affect your cash benefits, such as special needs trusts or an ABLE account or both. You may want to learn more about a variety of Social Security work incentives. Each state has funded projects to provide benefits planning and advising. To learn more, visitssa.gov/work/WIPA.html
  12. Erin asked: Researching ABLE accounts, I am still unsure about the relation to Medicaid. Will I still not be able to have more than X amount in my savings account to keep Medicaid coverage? How will this work with work-incentive programs like NJ's WorkAbility?

  13. Funds contributed to an ABLE account will not be taken into consideration when determining eligibility for Medicaid. Therefore you could have $10,000 in an ABLE account and your Medicaid coverage would not be affected. Also, keep in mind that total contributions from all contributors in a single tax year can not exceed $14,000.
  14. It terms of state based means tested programs (such as the NJ WorkAbility), they should not be affected either, however we would recommend you contact your state Medicaid agency (they're still being educated).
  15. Here's a common question: What resources are available to fund #assistivetechnology?
  16. If you live in other states around the country, you will want to visit the Catalyst Project, managed by RESNA - resnaprojects.org
  17. Finally, we asked: How do you think we can we work within our communities to encourage a better economic climate and financial inclusion for the #disability community?

  18. NDI said: We recommend that you visit theNational Disability Institute website - realeconomicimpact.org - and learn more about the Real Economic Impact Network, which offers a monthly newsletter and webinar to provide unique strategies to advance financial capability and well-being for people with disabilities and their families...
  19. ...Specific action steps to take in your community include: 1) Working with your local business community to help them understand the benefits of hiring talented individuals with disabilities. 2) Talking to your local banks to make sure that they're accessible to people with disabilities and inquiring whether they offer any type of financial education classes. To learn more about the banking status and financial challenges facing people with disabilities, please read this report: http://www.realeconomicimpact.org/.../ndi_banking_status ...
  20. ...Work with your local education agency, disability service providers and the business community to create internship opportunities for youth in transition that create pathways to competitive integrated employment....
  21. ...In July 2016, a new federal law will be implemented that provides new opportunities for youth and adults with disabilities to receive supports and training geared toward career pathways. Learn more about the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act from a disability perspective by visiting the LEAD Center website:leadcenter.org/
  22. Thanks to everyone who asked questions and thanks to our panelists! Please don’t forget to check outrealeconomicimpact.org/ , ablenrc.org/ andeasterseals.com for more resources.

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