Trusts are typically straightforward – they are arrangements in which a third party holds assets on behalf of someone else. A special needs trust is a bit more complex.
Also known as a discretionary trust, a special needs trust provides for the needs of a child or adult beneficiary who has a disability. The main advantage of a special needs trust (SNT) is that it allows the beneficiary to hold cash and other valuable assets without becoming ineligible to receive help from public assistance benefits. As with other types of trusts, an SNT also helps the beneficiary lead a more stable, predictable, and happier life.
Many disabled adults and children rely on Social Security Insurance (SSI) and Medicaid to pay for their medical care – without these public assistance benefits, disabled individuals risk significant financial distress. Unfortunately, many public programs have limits on how much income a person can make monthly. If they make too much money, they will lose their benefits.
A special needs trust allows the disabled child or adult to continue receiving public assistance benefits along with financial disbursements from the trust.
Estate planning attorneys categorize special needs trusts according to how the trusts are funded.
A Special Needs Trust can hold almost any type of asset, including cash, securities, property, and life insurance proceeds.
A person, known as a trustee, decides how and when to disburse the money to the beneficiary. They must make wise decisions to be sure that the disbursements do not disqualify the beneficiary from receiving government benefits.
Only people with less than $2000 and couples with less than $3000 are eligible for SSI. Medicaid also restricts income. To ensure that their disabled children can continue receiving public assistance benefits, people without a special needs trust sometimes must make the difficult decision to deny their child an inheritance. A special needs trust supplants, or replaces, the need for disinheritance.
Depending on the terms in the SNT, the responsibilities of the trustee may include:
For guidance on special needs trusts, consult with Charles D. Stark. Our estate planning attorney in Sonoma County can help you create a special needs trust that provides long-lasting benefits to disabled children and adults.