Impact of Tax Reform on ABLE Accounts and Special Needs Trusts: Guidance for Elder Law Attorneys

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Thursday, September 27, 2018

Recorded event now available

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Program Materials

This CLE webinar will offer elder attorneys guidance on navigating the intricacies of ABLE accounts and special needs trusts in light of the 2017 tax reform law. Our panel will discuss how tax reform changes the taxation of these critical planning tools, techniques for avoiding pitfalls in structuring, and their interplay with other planning strategies.


Since their introduction in 2014, ABLE (or 529A) accounts, along with third-party special needs trusts, have provided critical planning tools for families who need to provide for the care and well being of aging or disabled family members. Implementation of ABLE account programs at the state level, however, exposed several limitations which the 2017 tax reform law corrects. Tax reform likewise impacts the interplay between special needs trusts and ABLE accounts.

Concerning ABLE accounts, one of the more notable changes is in the new tax law’s treatment of 529 account contributions—now allowing for rollover of those contributions into ABLE accounts in amounts up to the gift tax exclusion.

Tax reform now also allows ABLE account beneficiaries to contribute earnings to their accounts over and above any contributions by friends and family members. While these changes represent a marked improvement to the benefit offered by ABLE accounts, tax reform provides no guidance on how this tool can cooperate with special needs trusts to bolster care planning strategies for the same beneficiary.

Listen as our panel of experienced practitioners discusses the impact of tax reform on ABLE accounts and special needs trusts, as well as how elder lawyers can employ critical changes in the tax treatment of these tools to offer strategic guidance to clients navigating planning issues for aging and disabled clients.



  1. Overview of ABLE accounts
    1. Criteria for enrollment and contributions
    2. Benefits
    3. Limitations
  2. Overview of special needs trusts
    1. Self-settled
    2. Third party
    3. Benefits
    4. Limitations
  3. Changes under tax reform
    1. ABLE accounts
    2. Special needs trusts
    3. Interplay between the two


The panel will review these and other noteworthy issues:

  • How has tax reform changed the treatment of contributions to ABLE accounts and special needs trusts?
  • What advantages are there for beneficiaries wanting to contribute income/earnings to special needs trusts and ABLE accounts?
  • What steps can families of aging and disabled clients take to ensure that the maximum benefit is derived from these planning tools?


Laymon-Pecoraro, Shannon
Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro

Hook Law Center

Ms. Laymon-Pecoraro is a Shareholder of Hook Law Center, P.C. practicing in the areas of elder law, special needs...  |  Read More

Shirahama, Kristin
Kristin W. Shirahama

Bowditch & Dewey

Ms. Shirahama is a Massachusetts trust and estate lawyer who uses her listening skills, empathy and knowledge of the...  |  Read More

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