Special Needs Trust: Protection for Those Who Need It the Most

Families of those with disabilities – physical or mental – are typically concerned with the best way to fund the long-term financial and personal needs of their special needs loved one in a way that will secure a fulfilling life for them. The best vehicle to accomplish this goal is known as a Special Needs Trust (SNT).

A SNT can be customized to the special circumstances of each family facing the need to secure the future of a disabled family member, while keeping their access to government benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) intact.

In fact, the best planned SNT will maximize the use of both private and governmental resources to benefit your disabled loved one.  Families can use their personal assets to provide for qualify of life enhancements like education, training, vacations, hobbies or pets as a secondary source of support to supplement government benefits to meet the basic needs of a disabled family member.

Types of Special Needs Trusts

The most prevalent type of SNT is the Supplemental Care SNT, which are designed to serve as a supplemental resource after government benefits have been exhausted. The assets placed into a SNT are not considered “available resources” for purposes of qualifying for government benefits.

A General Support SNT is a trust that is set up to serve as the primary source of benefits, and will disqualify the beneficiary from receiving needs-based government benefits.

Determining which type of SNT is best for a special needs beneficiary depends on whether the assets placed in the trust will last for the lifetime of the beneficiary.  If so, a General Support SNT could be appropriate. If not, a Supplemental Care SNT is the best choice since it allows the beneficiary to receive government benefits.

Establishing a SNT

To establish a SNT, the beneficiary must be disabled according to the guidelines established by the Social Security Act – i.e., unable to support themselves due to a disability – and also be under the age of 65 when the SNT is established.

If the disabled person is over 65, a “pooled” SNT in which numerous disabled parties participate, is an option. Several states as well as charitable organizations make pooled SNTs available for this purpose.

A trustee must be named for the SNT, and not all jurisdictions allow for family members to serve as trustees. In this case, a professional trustee such as a trust company or bank may be used to perform the fiduciary duties of the SNT.

As a Personal Family Lawyer®, I can further advise you on all your options and make things as easy as possible for your family during a Family Wealth Planning Session.  If you would like to have a talk about estate planning for your family, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.

To your family’s health, wealth and happiness!

David Feakes

P.S.  Want to get started on the most important planning you’ll ever do for your family?  Give our office a call at (978) 263-6900 to get started.  You’ll be so glad you did.

David Feakes is the owner of The Parents Estate Planning Law Firm, PC – a law firm for families in the Acton, Massachusetts area.  David helps parents protect the people they love the most.  If you would like to receive David’s exclusive, free report, “Six Major Mistakes To Avoid When Choosing An Estate Planning Attorney,”  you can get it right here.

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At The Parents Estate Planning Law Firm, we answer your questions at your convenience; we stay in frequent communication; and we meet to discuss changes in life circumstances and in the law to ensure that your assets are protected.

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