THE LAW OFFICE OF RANDY HOPE STEEN - Tax, Trust, Estate, Special Needs & Business Succession Planning
New Tax Law Makes Changes to ABLE Accounts Families taking advantage of ABLE savings accounts will have a little more flexibility in planning for special needs as a result of the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017.  ABLE accounts, created by Congress via the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act in 2014, allow people with disabilities and their families to save for disability related expenses, while maintaining eligibility for Medicaid and other means-tested public benefits programs.  Click on the link below for more information:

Tax bill provision helps families save on school costs and taxes
  • Starting in 2018, you can use up to $10,000 in 529 plan proceeds for elementary and high school costs.
  • 529 plan contributions qualify for the $15,000 annual gift tax exclusion.
  • More than 30 states allow income tax deductions for 529 plan contributions.
As of Monday, parents will be able to ramp up on tax savings to help cover the cost of private school.  The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has expanded the use of 529 plans – accounts that allow savers to accumulate money and pay for college on a tax-free basis – to include elementary and secondary school expenses at public, private or religious institutions.  That means individuals can take up to $10,000 in distributions annually from their 529 plans to pay for private school tuition and books through 12 grade – in addition to using their account proceeds for college costs.
Click on the link below for more information:

States Get Guidance On ABLE Accounts, Medicaid Eligibility  As a new kind of account allowing people with disabilities to save money becomes more available, federal officials say there are big implications for Medicaid.  Money saved in so-called ABLE accounts generally does not count when determining eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid and other government programs.   However, the new financial offering which was established under a 2014 federal law is nuanced and now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is clarifying how ABLE accounts will impact Medicaid eligibility.   Click on the link below for more information:

Will You Be Able to Help Your College-Age Child in a Medical Emergency? The HIPAA Privacy Rule can get in your way
"Early one October morning, Sheri E. Warsh, a mother of three from Highland Park, Ill., stepped out of the shower to a ringing phone. On the other end, her 18-year-old son’s college roommate delivered terrifying news: Her son—270 miles away at the University of Michigan—was being rushed by ambulance to a nearby emergency room with severe, unrelenting chest pain. “I was scared out of my mind, imagining the worst,” Warsh said.  In a panic, she called the ER for details about the medical emergency. What she got instead was a rebuff from the nurse. “She asked me how old my son was, and when I said 18, she told me I had no right to talk to the doctor,” Warsh said.  Was the nurse acting within her scope? In fact, she was. The ER chose not to disclose the son’s medical condition due to the Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.
How to Ensure You'll Have Access to Your Child
In this case, Warsh’s son didn’t intend to keep his parents in the dark during his medical emergency. In the midst of cardiac-care chaos, he was in too much pain to give authorization. But a simple, signed legal document (or two, in some states) would have smoothed the way. “Nobody is talking about this, even after I went to so many college meetings and orientations,” Warsh said. The irony of her story is that Warsh is an attorney specializing in the practice of trusts and estates as a partner at a Chicago law firm. “Now in my practice I have made it my goal to educate parents on what they need to do,” she said.
Important Documents
Moms and dads who still think of themselves as protectors and advisers, even after their children become legal adults, often don’t consider the real-world implications of that milestone birthday. They and their young-adult children need to think about the unthinkable in advance. Three forms—HIPAA authorization, medical power of attorney, and durable power of attorney—will help facilitate the involvement of a parent or other trusted adult in a medical emergency.
Click on the link below for more information:

Clarification to newer flexibilty to 1st Party Special Needs Trusts - Special needs trusts have a new level of flexibility and federal officials are working to ensure that state Medicaid directors understand the implications. Under a law passed late last year, individuals with disabilities can for the first time establish special needs trusts for themselves.  The shift, designed to make saving money easier for those with disabilities, is significant. Previously, trusts had to be created by a third party.  Now, federal Medicaid officials are offering guidance on what the change means for state programs.   Click on the link below for more information:

Members of Congress Re-Introduce ABLE Improvement Bills - On April 5th, a bi-partisan group of Members of Congress, including Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jerry Moran (R-KA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representatives Pete Sessions (R-Texas),  Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Tony Cardenas (D–Calif.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), introduced a package of bills (however filed independently of each other) aimed at enhancing the benefits provided through the Stephen Beck Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act.
Click on the link below for more information:

PA ABLE Savings Program Launch! - "Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella is proud to announce that the PA ABLE Savings Program (PA ABLE) will launch onApril 3, 2017.  Because you have registered with us to get updates on ABLE, you are among the first to know that ABLE will be open for enrollment on that date.
To mark the opening of ABLE, Treasury is planning a launch event in Harrisburg at the Capitol Rotunda on Monday, April 3, 2017, at 12:30 p.m.  Treasurer Joe Torsella, U.S. Senator Robert Casey and PA Senator Lisa Baker will be on hand as ABLE officially opens for business.  If you are interested in attending this important event, please email us with your name and someone will follow up with you.
By helping a loved one with a disability open a PA ABLE you will be helping him or her to take greater control of his or her own finances and, with your support, to plan for a more financially secure future.
Also, we would love to hear, and share with others, what having a PA ABLE account will mean to your family and how it will benefit you.  If you have a compelling story that we should be sharing, would you send us an email ( about it by March 24, 2017?  You might be surprised to get a phone call asking you to let Treasurer Torsella tell that story in his remarks at the event and in other ways, too!  We would love to hear stories of how ABLE will help.
Additionally, tell us if you know of an event, meeting, conference or workshop in your area where a representative from PA ABLE Savings Program could provide additional information.
Finally, please follow our Twitter handle @PATreasury for the latest updates, and help us drive the conversation with the hashtag #PAABLE.
Please celebrate with us on April 3! We want every Pennsylvanians with a qualifying disability and their families to know that ABLE has arrived and can provide the tools to build a sound financial future.
Thank you for your continued support of the PA ABLE Savings Program."
PA ABLE Savings Program Team

Nike Improves Shoe Accessibility - "
Nike is taking steps toward increased accessibility with a new shoe designed to make it even easier for people with disabilities to slip their feet in and out. The athletic-wear giant said this week that it’s introducing a new iteration of its FlyEase lineup, a collection of sneakers that include special accessibility features."
Click on the link below for more information:

GOP Plan To Replace Obamacare Calls For Medicaid Caps 
"A Republican proposal to revamp the nation’s health care system would fundamentally alter Medicaid, threatening access to community-based services for people with developmental disabilities, advocates say.The plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act unveiled by leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week calls for new limits on federal Medicaid spending.Rather than provide matching grants to states to cover anyone who meets eligibility requirements, the federal government would impose what’s known as a per capita cap, providing a fixed amount of money for each beneficiary based on spending in 2016"  Click on the link below for more information:

New USDA Regulation Confirms ABLE Fund Protection 
On January 6, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), a federal agency under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), published a final rule regarding various aspects related to, among other things, eligibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

"Great Synopsis of what an ABLE Account can and cannot actually do..."
The federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (“ABLE”) Act was enacted in December 2014. The federal law authorizes each state to develop their own ABLE programs, and many states have moved quickly to implement ABLE, including Pennsylvania, where on April 16, 2016, Governor Wolf signed into law Pennsylvania’s ABLE Act. But What is it?....  
Click on the link below for more information:

What the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act means for Self Settled SNTs (Payback SNTs)
"On Dec. 13, 2016, President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act (H.R.34 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)). Section 5007 of the Act, titled “Fairness in Medicaid Supplemental Needs Trusts” incorporates language from the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act of 2015 by adding two words (“the individual”) to an existing statute. With the stroke of a pen, more than two decades of unfair treatment to individuals with disabilities was ended by now allowing those with capacity to create their own self-settled special needs trust (SNT), without having to go to court." Click on the link below for more information:

U.S. Supreme Court Sets Date to Hear Special Education Case
"The U.S. Supreme Court has set Jan. 11 as the date that it will hear a case revolving around the level of benefit that special education is supposed to provide to students with disabilities.
Special education observers have said the case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, has major implications for students and for school districts and centers on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. As I explained in an article on Endrew that ran in October:
In [Hendrick Hudson District Board of Education v. Rowley,] the Supreme Court said that the IDEA requires instruction that is "reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefit." The court intentionally declined to say just how much benefit would be adequate. "[C]ourts must be careful to avoid imposing their view of preferable educational methods upon the states," Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote for the six-justice majority.
But lower courts have grappled with that question and come up with different terms. Should the educational benefit to students be "meaningful"? Are schools required to offer just "some" benefit? Or can the standard be met if educational benefits are little more than trivial?"
Click on the link below for more information:

Webinar Archive Now Available: A Closer Look at the New ABLE Programs
With the recent launch of the Ohio, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Florida State ABLE programs, the ABLE National Resource Center (ANRC) would like to invite potential ABLE participants, their families, and all other ABLE stakeholders, to attend a free webinar focused on helping you understand the differences between the various ABLE programs as well as how to determine which ABLE program might be best for you. Moderated by Michael Morris, the Executive Director of the National Disability Institute, the webinar will feature presentations from representatives on behalf of the Ohio STABLE Program, ABLE TN, the Nebraska Enable Savings Program, and the Florida ABLE United Program. View the webinar archive on YouTube:

Apartments Offer Inclusive Option For Adults On The Spectrum
“Most housing for people with autism is just for people with autism,” said Elliot Frank, president and founder of Autism Housing Development Corp. of Pittsburgh. “Inclusiveness is what makes this different.” click on link below for more from Disability Scoop

"The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved legislation to provide tracking devices and other resources to help kids with autism and developmental disabilities at risk of wandering. With a voice vote late Thursday, the Senate passed the bill known as Kevin and Avonte’s Law. The measure authorizes the U.S. Department of Justice to provide grants to law enforcement agencies to pay for electronic tracking devices for those with developmental disabilities who are prone to bolting." click on link below for more from Disability Scoop

"After trending down for the better part of the year, the unemployment rate for Americans with disabilities ticked back up with the start of the summer. The jobless rate for people with disabilities rose to 12.1 percent in June, a rise from 9.7 percent the month prior, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Labor. The shift comes as the unemployment rate for the general population increased slightly as well reaching 4.9 percent in June despite the economy adding 287,000 jobs during the month."  click on link below for more from Disability Scoop

Doctors Urged To Address Needs Of Females With Disabilities "Pediatricians are being encouraged to take a more active role in helping families prepare for and adapt to the changes that come with puberty for girls with disabilities. In a clinical report that will be published in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that doctors should be ready to address the unique needs of adolescents with physical and intellectual disabilities surrounding puberty and menstruation."  click on link below for more from Disability Scoop

ABLE Accounts Make Debut in Ohio  "For the first time, people with disabilities can open special accounts where they can save money without jeopardizing their government benefits.  This week, Ohio became the first state to offer accounts made possible through the Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE, Act with the launch of its program. The accounts are nearly a decade in the making, becoming possible thanks to federal passage of the ABLE Act in 2014.  However, states had to pass their own legislation and implement regulations before the offering could become available to consumers." 
"Two separate bills have been introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature to authorize the use of ABLE Accounts by Pennsylvania residents.  ABLE Accounts are a new form of tax free savings account for individuals who became severely disabled before they reached age 26. The idea is to allow those qualified to have more savings than previously allowed without jeopardizing their public benefits eligibility. "More from
Both the State Senate and House of Representatives have taken action on ABLE legislation.
A similar bill, HB 1319, providing for a Pennsylvania tax deduction for contributions made into an ABLE account passed the House and was amended in the Senate Finance Committee.


THE DISABILITY INTEGRATION ACT introduced by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., all individuals with disabilities who are deemed eligible for institutional care would be guaranteed the option to receive the services they need at home or in the setting of their choice. Please see link below for more information.

For Man With Special Needs, A Fight To Remain Self-Employed - Disability Scoop

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