- Special Needs Alliance - https://www.specialneedsalliance.org -

How to Open an ABLE Account

By Stephen W. Dale, Esq. [1]

The first ABLE programs have been launched in Florida [2], Nebraska [3], Ohio [4] and Tennessee [5], and three of them welcome applicants from other states. Since accounts can be rolled over from one state to another, families throughout the U.S. may want to begin exploring their options now.

ABLE accounts [6], which grow tax-free, are one way to set aside funds for disability-related expenses without affecting the beneficiary’s eligibility for means-tested programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. They are available to individuals who meet the government’s definition of “disability” prior to turning 26, and at the beneficiary’s death, remaining funds must first be used to reimburse Medicaid for expenses covered since creation of the account.

There are broad similarities among the four new programs, but many details differ, as will undoubtedly continue to be the case as additional programs launch. Interested families should carefully research the specifics, bearing in mind that the least expensive alternative may not be the one that best meets their long-term needs. Following is a far-from-comprehensive overview of what to expect…

Who Can Open an Account?

An ABLE account can be opened by a beneficiary, parent, guardian/conservator or agent designated through power of attorney. Regardless of who is responsible for managing the account, it may be advisable to consult a special needs attorney about establishing a power of attorney to avoid interruptions in signature authority.

How to Sign Up

To date, all the programs have an online application process, with help available by phone or email. Nebraska also provides a hard copy application for mail-in. This form must be used by guardians, conservators or agents designated through power of attorney, who must supply evidence of their legal responsibility. Parents of a minor beneficiary can apply online.


So far, Florida is the only state limiting eligibility for its ABLE program to state residents. Other requirements are federally mandated, and applicants are responsible for self-certifying that they meet them. In addition to having a disability that appeared prior to the age of 26, the beneficiary must meet one of the following conditions:

Applicants are not required to forward the physician’s certification to the state program but must be prepared to supply it if requested. They will, however, need to provide the doctor’s name, address and date of diagnosis.

Florida offers an online Eligibility Wizard [8], Ohio has an “eligibility quiz [9]” and Tennessee has an interactive guide [5] to help families determine whether or not someone qualifies.

Other Information Needed

The following information is required concerning the beneficiary:

If the account is being opened by someone other than the beneficiary, their personal information will also be needed.

For those who wish to transfer funds electronically (where available), bank account and routing numbers must be supplied.


Deposits to an ABLE account can be made by anyone, and there are federally determined limits. Beneficiaries can have no more than one account and annual contributions can’t exceed $14,000, a number that’s likely to increase over time. Balances over $100,000 will cause SSI to be suspended until they fall below that level. The amount at which Medicaid is affected will vary by state. Here are examples of state-specific differences:

Investment Options

All states offer a variety of investment choices, ranging from conservative to aggressive.


Account Management

The launch of additional state ABLE plans in the coming months is anticipated. States will undoubtedly learn from each other’s experiences, and the best available option for you or a loved one with special needs is likely to be a moving target.