ABLE Act -- Achieving a Better Life Experience Act - Keston Law - Wilmington, NC
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ABLE Act -- Achieving a Better Life Experience Act

Posted May 1, 2018 by Joan Keston

The ABLE account is a new financial tool for individuals with disabilities created by the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014. It was adopted in North Carolina on August 11, 2015. The Act amended the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to create a tax-free savings account for individuals with disabilities. In addition, the funds in an ABLE account do not count toward the $2,000 cap on assets that is required to remain eligible for critical government supports.

Basically the account can hold up to $100,000, and a maximum annual contribution of $15,000 can be made to the account. An individual can contribute earned income into the account. Friends and family can also make a gift to an ABLE account, and this gift would not count as income to the individual. Most importantly, an individual can have an ABLE account and still qualify for SSI, SSDI and Medicaid.

The earnings on the investments in the ABLE account are federally tax-deferred and tax-free, if used for qualified disability expenses. Qualified disability expenses are any expense that are incurred as a result of living with a disability and are intended to improve your quality of life. They include but are not limited to: education, health and wellness, housing, transportation, legal fees, financial management, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services, oversight and monitoring, and funeral and burial expenses.

An ABLE account can be used instead of resorting to a more expensive and more complicated Special Needs Trust. Bu, an individual can have an ABLE account and still have a Special Needs Trust. Knowing which way to go is something that an attorney or NC ABLE can advise.


In order to be eligible to open an ABLE account, an individual must be disabled with the onset of the disability occurring prior to age 26. The person would be eligible if they meet one of the following three criteria: (i) They have a written diagnosis from a licensed physician, (ii) They are blind as determined by the Social Security Act (“SSA”), or (iii) They are eligible for SSI or SSDI because of the disability. In addition the individual must certify that they are blind as defined by the SSA or they suffer from a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that has lasted, or is expected to last, for at least 12 continuous months or result in death. There is an annual re-certification requirement.


An ABLE account can be opened with NC ABLE online at or by downloading, printing and mailing in the completed form. An account cannot be opened at a bank.

Authorized Individuals

The following individuals can establish and ABLE account:

  • For a disabled adult without Guardianship, the individual or their Agent under their Power of Attorney
  • For a disabled adult with Guardianship, the individual’s parent, Guardian of the Estate or General Guardian. Their Guardian of the Person may not open an ABLE account.
  • For a minor/child, the individual’s parent or guardian

For more information on the details of the ABLE account and whether it is a good alternative for you or your loved one, visit NC ABLE’s website ( or call them at 888-627-7503.