In early May 2017, Illinois announced the opening of the statewide ABLE Act Program, billed as a life-changer for those with disabilities. The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, known as the ABLE Act, was passed by the federal government in 2014, and states were given the opportunity to develop an appropriate program to administer the infrastructure. Illinois’s took some time to complete, but at this point, the program is open and able to receive applications. Naturally, one might wonder if applying is worth the effort. The answer is going to depend on your individual situation, especially if you or another person has guardianship over your disabled loved one.
Normally, in order to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you must show that you have very few assets of your own, and your total net worth must remain under $2,000. However, as costs of living have risen and insurance companies have cut back on the coverage they will provide, such a limit is not tenable for many, especially families, who may need that supplemental income. For example, it is not uncommon for a disabled person to marry, and then promptly lose their benefits. This happens because his or her spouse’s income is counted among their own assets, as that person’s income is counted among his or her spouse’s assets. Such outcomes are patently inequitable.
The ABLE Act seeks to give families in these positions a bit of help. Disabled adults or parents of disabled children may establish ABLE accounts for themselves and pay into them without having to worry about it affecting their eligibility for SSI or other means-tested government benefits. Because many of the costs of disability care are not covered by insurance, an ABLE account may, at least in theory, be used to help pay for such aids as a certain type of wheelchair, accessible transportation, or similar things intended to improve the disabled person’s quality of life.
People Under Guardianship
While for many, ABLE accounts appear to be a significant help for the disabled in saving money and dignity, there are some factors to be aware of if you are under guardianship or are the guardian of a disabled adult. The Arc of Illinois explains that if someone is under guardianship, but he or she wishes to establish an ABLE account, it generally requires court approval to do so. It can also require a surety bond, as well as approval of all expenditures from the account, depending on the county and the nature of the guardianship. In most cases, a guardian of the person must seek approval to manage the account on the disabled person’s behalf while a guardian of the estate does not require such approval.
The rationale behind this is that generally, the disabled person is in control of the account, with no trustees or governing entity behind them. However, if someone has a guardian of the estate, by definition, the disabled person is not in control of the account. This can cause difficulties in the future, especially if the person has intellectual disabilities and may not have sufficient capacity to make decisions regarding his or her finances.
Need Help Understanding ABLE Accounts?
Overall, ABLE accounts are seen as a positive step for disabled people in terms of being able to support themselves, but the equation becomes more complex if there is a guardianship involved. Our passionate DuPage County family law attorneys can help advise you on how to ensure that your ward will be provided for and given the as many opportunities as possible to be independent. Contact our offices today to set up an initial consultation.