In 2023, there were significant legal changes impacting the Maryland Achieving a Better Life Experience program, also known as the Maryland ABLE program. These updates have resulted in expanded access to the benefits of Maryland ABLE accounts for qualified individuals with disabilities. There is now an expanded list of people who may assist an individual with disabilities to open a Maryland ABLE account. Soon those qualified individuals with a disability onset before age 46 will be able to open an account. Lastly, account holders who work may now have their earnings or Social Security Administration (SSA) benefits deposited directly into their ABLE account.
A Maryland ABLE account provides qualified individuals with disabilities the opportunity to have a tax advantage savings account that allows them to maintain their eligibility for federal and state benefits, while saving money to cover qualified disability expenses. The Maryland legislature’s recent signing of the Maryland ABLE Program Account Establishment Procedures expanded the list of individuals that legally may assist a person with disabilities with setting up their ABLE account. A person with disabilities may still open their own ABLE account, however those who may need assistance can have their agent under their Power of Attorney, a conservator or legal guardian open an ABLE account for a qualified individual. However, if the qualified individual does not have a Power of Attorney agent, conservator, or legal guardian, the following people, in order, may help set up an individual’s ABLE account: spouse, parent, sibling, grandparent, or representative payee appointed by the SSA.
Further expanding access to ABLE accounts for individuals with disabilities, is the change under the ABLE Age Adjustment Act. Effective 2026, the qualifying age of disability onset to open an ABLE account will change from 26 years old to 46. Meaning that the individual’s disability must be present prior to the age of 46, rather than 26. By expanding the onset qualification age, more people with disabilities will be able to save and invest money without losing their federal or state benefits, such as SSI and Medicaid. It is important to note that the change to the qualifying age of disability onset does not impact the fact that an individual with disabilities’ sole ABLE account may be opened at any age.
Once an individual has their ABLE account opened, the account holders may now have their paycheck or their SSA benefits directly deposited into their Maryland ABLE account. The SSA beneficiary or the representative payee appointed by the SSA may make the direct deposit election. However, even if directly deposited, it is important to remember that a paycheck still counts as earnings by the SSA.
Through these updates to the Maryland ABLE program, you or your loved one with disabilities may now be able to benefit from the opening of an ABLE account now or in the near future. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our office.