Home 9 Podcast 9 Together We PLAN – Episode Two. Navigating Special Needs Trusts and ABLE Accounts: A Guide for Families

Episode Two – Navigating Special Needs Trusts and ABLE Accounts: A Guide for Families

With special guests Shirley Whitenack, Esq. and Liz Farishian, RN, MA with host Ellen Nalven, co-host Nancy Dilliplane

Our second episode, “Navigating Special Needs Trusts and ABLE Accounts: A Guide for Families,” unpacks the essential topics of Special Needs Trusts and ABLE accounts. Our guests Shirley Whitenack, Esq. and Elizabeth A. Farishian, RN, MA offer a deep dive into the tools’ importance, their practical applications, and the peace of mind they bring to families planning for the future. Shirley and Liz share their expert knowledge and personal stories, providing listeners with a comprehensive understanding of how to effectively secure the future of their loved ones with disabilities. Key topics include preserving access to benefits and services, the role of life insurance policies, Medicaid payback rules, whether to name siblings as trustees, the role of a Trust Protector, qualifying for an ABLE account, and much, much more. Co-host: Nancy Dilliplane, Senior Director, Trust Administration Services, PLAN|NJ

Key Takeaways

  1. Special Needs Trusts (SNTs) are vital for securing means-tested public benefits and access to residential, employment and other support services for individuals with disabilities
  2. First Party vs. Third Party Trusts offer critical distinctions in Medicaid payback obligations
  3. When and How to Fund the SNT and the rules around IRAs, 401Ks and other qualified assets
  4. The Role of Trustee is important; consider choosing an experienced trustee familiar with government benefits and asset management
  5. ABLE Accounts serve as flexible tools for managing funds without affecting SSI or Medicaid eligibility, with unique benefits over Special Needs Trusts in certain scenarios
  6. Evolving Legal Frameworks over time suggest the necessity of staying informed about changes in laws affecting trusts and ABLE accounts.

“Navigating Special Needs Trusts and ABLE Accounts: A Guide for Families,” is the second of nine episodes in Together We PLAN. This podcast series covers a variety of critical issues, including Special Needs Trusts, mental health, housing, guardianship, supported decision-making, and other topics relevant to PLAN|NJ’s mission of supporting people with disabilities. Each episode aims to inform, engage, and inspire action towards creating a more inclusive and supportive community.

We invite our audience to join us on this enlightening journey. Your participation is crucial as we tackle these important topics. Stay tuned for future episodes where we’ll continue to explore, discuss, and advocate for meaningful change in the world of disability support.

Follow “Together We PLAN” on all major podcast platforms to stay updated with our series. Your engagement and support can make a significant impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families. Join us in our mission to advocate, educate, and empower.

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our story

"A Talk With Families"

The stories of three families with loved ones who have disabilities and who use PLAN|NJ's trust administration and care coordination services are told through interviews conducted in their homes by Executive Director Ellen Nalven.


Planned Lifetime Assistance Network of New Jersey PLAN|NJ
PO Box 547
Somerville, NJ 08876-0547
908-575-8300 (Phone)
908-927-9010 (Fax)


Alliance for the Betterment of Citizens with Disabilities
Association of People Supporting Employment First
Alliance for Pooled Trusts
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Guardianship Association
National PLAN Alliance
Supportive Housing Association of New Jersey


We work hard to provide relevant and current information. If you feel something is missing or needs to be corrected, please contact us via our contact form HERE.

PLAN|NJ = Lifetime Advocacy for People with Disabilities



PLAN|NJ’s mission is to help family members of people with disabilities answer the question:

“Who will care for my loved one when I'm gone?”

We coordinate the supports needed by individuals with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities, and challenges with mental health, including people with autism, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, severe mental illness and more.

Spanish Translation

Si usted habla español y quisiera mas información sobre nuestros servicios o si desea una consulta con PLAN\NJ, por favor comuníquese con
Nancy Dilliplane, Director of Trust Services, para asistencia bilingüe:  908-575-8300, extensión 15