Those who have cared for a loved one with disabilities know how difficult that road can be.
Some people care for aging parents and others care for children who may have lifelong special needs. On top of extra workloads, caregivers are often required to sacrifice financially.
There are government needs-based options like Social Security Disability, but these options usually require abject poverty before benefits will be paid.
Attorneys have discovered clever ways and loopholes to help people qualify for benefits while retaining a few assets that will greatly enhance the quality of life for those in need. Unfortunately, this type of legal work can be complex and expensive.
In 2014, a bill called the Achieving a Better Life Act of 2014 was passed. The aim of this bill was to provide some relief for people who provide care for those who are disabled and need help.
This bill created a new type of account called an ABLE 529. California adopted its own version called CalABLE.
A CalABLE is an account that can be created to hold assets that will not count against a special-needs individual as they try to qualify for government aid.
The growth of CalABLE accounts will also not be taxable as long as the funds are used for qualified expenses.
The list of qualified expenses is long. The criteria require funds to be used to help maintain or improve health, independence or quality of life. This can apply to general health, transportation, employment support and a number of other areas.
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You might be surprised how the state interprets the above criteria, so check before you spend.
A key benefit of the CalABLE account is that it may help people qualify for government benefits even if they can’t afford to hire an attorney. I would still strongly recommend that people consult an attorney.
There are limits on the amount you can contribute to a CalABLE. There is a $15,000 annual limit.
There are also lifetime limits, but to qualify for Supplemental Security Income the account cannot have more than $100,000. Those hoping to qualify for Medi-Cal can have up to $529,000 in a CalABLE.
CalABLE accounts are controlled by the state of California.
You can choose to use your CalABLE account like a savings and checking account or choose to use longer-term investing options. California has chosen TIAA-CREF as a custodian for these accounts.
Not just anyone can use or open a CalABLE account.
You must apply at the CalABLE website to see If you are eligible. Generally, anyone who is eligible to receive Social Security Disability can open one of these accounts, but there are other scenarios that can qualify so be sure to check.
CalABLE legislation is vast, well beyond the scope of this column. You must do research and consult with an attorney to discover if a CalABLE is a good fit for you and your needs.