Reader’s Perspective: Question and Answer with Minoti Rajput, founder and principal advisor of Secure Planning Strategies and Author of “Beyond a Parent’s Love”

By Paul Curley, CFA | | October 24, 2018

How does this author and financial advisor view special needs planning and ABLE accounts in terms of helping families to save and plan for their future?

This article features an interview with Minoti Rajput, founder and principal advisor of Secure Planning Strategies and Author of “Beyond a Parent’s Love.” Based in Southfield, Michigan, which is a northern suburb of Detroit, Minoti has been an advisor for nearly 40 years and has helped families with special needs planning since 1990. She is a Certified Financial Planner, a Chartered Special Needs consultant and has an MBA in finance. Since December 1990, she has hosted educational workshops on special needs planning for the community and you can check out her schedule of upcoming special needs seminars on her website Building upon her experience as an advisor with specialty in special needs planning, the book was published in September 2018 and provides a collection of stories of families describing their background and strategies she used to help them in special needs planning. Additionally, she provides comprehensive wealth management, and works with estate and trust attorneys to coordinate solutions and strategies for her clients. She specializes in wealth management for women and exit strategy planning for business owners. Currently, she lives in Michigan with her husband and they have two daughters. You can learn more about Minoti at the website Last but not least, thank you Minoti for your time, insight and support in working with me on the article. Please read the question and answers to learn about her perspective on special needs planning and ABLE accounts, and hope that the article provides you with an opportunity to learn more from your peers.

Question 1 (Paul Curley, Editor of the 529 Dash):
How and why did you get started with the book of “Beyond a Parent’s Love?” I think it is a timely book on special needs planning and ABLE accounts.

Answer 1 (Minoti Rajput, founder and principal advisor of Secure Planning Strategies and Author of “Beyond a Parent’s Love”):
I have been doing special needs planning for nearly thirty years. I was the first advisor with the sub-specialty of comprehensive special needs planning in the state of Michigan. I wanted to do planning beyond just telling the clients to create a trust or finding life insurance as a vehicle to fund the trust. As I started to meet more people, I realized there was so much more involved in their day-to-day lives and planning for the future had to be more comprehensive. For example, special needs trust planning impacts the parent’s planning in turn because they are retiring for three people and sometimes four people. Therefore, a more holistic and creative approach is necessary for their planning. Having counselled over 1,500 families nationwide and as I plan my own retirement, I just felt that their stories needed to be shared because even though there has been books written on how to do special needs planning and what it entails, not much has been written about the human interest stories of what the families go through. There are no two families alike in their values, culture and disability of their children. They are all different and I wanted to write about these families, their real-life stories in a way that would interest people from all walks of life, whether they have children with disability or if they are professionals such as financial planners, physicians, therapists, social workers and understand what the families go through in raising a child with disability and what are the key components in planning for their future. That was my intent. That’s my legacy to be left behind.

Question 2: As you had mentioned, you had been doing special needs planning for many years and ABLE accounts have only been available for about three years. How did you first come to learn about ABLE accounts, and how did you learn to see them as an important tool in helping families?

Answer 2: It is my habit to often to go online and Google things about special needs planning to see if there’s any new news. Because the bill to start ABLE accounts was signed at almost the tail-end of December 2014, it popped up somewhere in the first week of January 2015 on my list of things to read and research. I noticed that the bill was final, and I knew ABLE accounts were in the works. But the fact that it was approved really opened up a new door for many people under many different situations and circumstances. It wasn’t quite approved in Michigan for a long time, so while we were excited that this had happened at the Federal level, there was not a whole lot we could do to educate the parents or determine who was going to benefit from them and who was not. You always have to wait and see when a new law is a passed to study, analyze and research how it turns out. Then you have to see how it’s going to fit into the various plans and client situations. But the fact is that for the first time since I had started doing special needs planning, something positive had been done and that itself was very, very satisfying. It was great news.

Question 3:
Based on your experience, what are the pros and cons of ABLE accounts?

Answer 3: The first and most important thing that I have to say in terms of planning and educating the parents is that this is not replacing the standard planning that needs to be done for the families and the special needs person. This is not replacing the need of creating a special needs trust for the special needs child. The fact that it allows families to open an account and fund it under certain rules and regulations – That in itself is the big news. However, I can easily spell out under what circumstances this is the most suitable or appropriate. I will first describe those situations where it works, and then I can talk about where it will not work, or probably where it should not be considered.

First scenario: There are situations where you have a special needs child and he’s over the age of 18. He has been diagnosed before 26 and perhaps he is able to work and has earnings from employment. In addition, he is collecting SSI and later on when his parents or her parents retire, he is getting Social Security Disability Income and may be receiving anywhere from $750 a month to $1,100 a month. May be the individual is not able to spend down the amount and has savings each month. It doesn’t cost them a whole lot to live with their parents and they may not be actively involved in recreation or doing different things so they have a tough time keeping their bank account under $2,000. The parents are always worried about how they are going to keep this money under $2,000 to make sure that they don’t lose their eligibility for Medicaid. In this scenario, ABLE has opened up doors for them and they can take the extra money and put it in the child’s ABLE account and still not disqualify the special needs individual for Medicaid. ABLE Act will no longer discourage families from sending their child with disability to work out of fear of having earnings and losing eligibility for Medicaid.

Second scenario: A special needs person who is already on SSI / SSDI and Medicaid inadvertently receives a small inheritance of $10,000. Because it’s more than $2,000, that amount jeopardizes their eligibility for benefits under those circumstances. In this scenario, ABLE has opened up doors as long as the amount is less than $15,000 in 2018 (or the revised amount going forward for inflation). They can take that amount and put it in ABLE account and not disqualify for SSI or Medicaid.

Third scenario: The third situation that I see is where the parents are divorced and one of the parents is willing to pay child support. For an individual that is on government benefits, that amount could be considered an income and may jeopardize the eligibility for Medicaid. They can now use that amount in excess of what their expenses are and put it in an ABLE account and not disqualify for those government benefits. These are three very good reasons to have ABLE accounts. We have an avenue to fund the ABLE account and remain qualified for the government benefits.

Those are very good reasons but there is a limit on the total amount they could have in the ABLE account and there is a payback feature upon the death of the special needs person. Because of this, ABLE account doesn’t really replace the need of creating a third-party special needs trust.

Question 4: How can ABLE product providers and state agencies improve ABLE accounts from a legislative, product, marketing and distribution perspective?

Answer 4: I think ABLE could be improved with higher annual contribution limits depending upon circumstances. A lot of people who do not have the means to fund ABLE accounts with large amounts or create a special needs trust by going to an attorney and paying for the legal documents, if they had the ability to do something more than what the current ABLE limits allows, they may be more open to opening an ABLE account as a planning tool for the future of their child with disability.

Also, if they could remove or lower the amount of state pay back, many parents may be more motivated to fund the ABLE account if they know that upon the death of their special needs child, other family members could receive the unused amount.

Question 5: Do you have any feedback or thoughts on the ABLE Age Adjustment Act that would increase the age of onset from 26 to 46?

Answer 5: It may help a small percentage of people, but I don’t see too many people who could benefit.

Question 6: Where can readers go to learn more about ABLE accounts and special needs planning?

Answer 6: Well my book is certainly going to motivate people to do their planning. There is a chapter about the nuts and bolts about special needs planning, so I would say my book will certainly help them get an overall perspective, not necessarily on ABLE Act alone. Beyond a Parent’s Love is a collection of human-interest stories of several families describing their challenges, struggles and triumphs of raising a child or children with disability. While it describes planning strategies for the future of a person with special needs, it also focuses on the family dynamics, parent’s acceptance of their child’s disability and concerns about caring for the child after the parents are gone. These are true stories and each one of them provides insights and lessons that can be learned.

Editor’s Final Note: Thank you Minoti for your time and insight in working with me on the article, and much appreciated. Also, I would like to provide a special thank you to the readers of the article for learning from your peers, for your support and your engagement.

Additional Links to Purchase Book:
Mission Point Press