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Other Views: A better approach

Oregonians with disabilities and their families can start planning for a new financial tool that becomes available this winter, courtesy of the state of Oregon and the federal government.

The state's Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Savings Plan, created after Congress allowed states to do so, starts in December. It lets the disabled and their families put money aside for future needs. It's a good change.

Currently, those with disabilities can have no more than $2,000 in savings before they begin losing the federal benefits on which many rely. Their families can set up special needs trusts, but those are expensive and require lawyers and trustees.

ABLE accounts will change that. They're relatively inexpensive to set up, and no trustee is required. After-tax dollars can be added by the account beneficiary or by nondisabled family members, and the accounts are not taxed. Those who contribute can qualify for tax deductions of up to $4,000 per year.

Funds can be used for a house or a new wheelchair, or nearly anything else that improves a beneficiary's quality of life. And, an account can contain $100,000 before any loss of federal benefits. Even then, a beneficiary would lose benefits only until the ABLE account — which can contain as much as $310,000 — is spent down to $100,000.

ABLE accounts won't mean independence for every person with a disability. But they'll provide more peace of mind to families who worry about financial security for disabled relatives after parents or others die.