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Special needs trusts: administration and planning

On Behalf of | Jun 17, 2024 | Estate Administration, Estate Planning |

A special needs trust (SNT) manages money for a person with disabilities. A key benefit of an SNT is that it does not affect eligibility for government benefits. This way, beneficiaries receive financial support while still qualifying for federal assistance programs.

Types of special needs trusts

Special needs trusts come in three main types:

  • First-party SNT: The beneficiary funds this trust with their own assets. Often these funds come from an inheritance or personal injury settlement.
  • Third-party SNT: Someone other than the beneficiary establishes and funds this trust. Typically, these funds come from the beneficiary’s relatives.
  • Pooled SNT: A non-profit organization manages this trust. They pool funds from multiple beneficiaries while maintaining separate accounts for each.

Benefits of a special needs trust

Creating a special needs trust offers several advantages. Beneficiaries still remain eligible for programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Furthermore, trustees or non-profit organizations manage the trust, ensuring proper use of funds. Additionally, it protects the beneficiary’s assets from misuse or exploitation.

Establishing a special needs trust

To establish a special needs trust, begin by consulting a qualified professional. This ensures the legal foundation of the trust is solid and adheres to state laws.

Next, draft the trust document. This detailed document should outline the terms, beneficiaries, and trustees.

After drafting the trust document, fund the trust by transferring assets into it. Proper management and adherence to legal requirements are essential at this stage. This maintains the trust’s validity and effectiveness.

Finally, appoint a trustee. Select a trustworthy and capable individual or organization to manage the SNT. The trustee oversees the distribution of funds and enforces the trust’s terms.

Safeguarding the future

Special needs trusts offer a host of benefits for individuals with disabilities. However, proper administration is essential for maintaining these advantages. 

Adherence to the trust terms is vital. Ensure all actions and distributions align with the trust document’s provisions. It is helpful to maintain accurate records of all transactions related to the trust. Avoid direct payments to the beneficiary to protect their benefits. Make payments directly to service providers or for specific expenses instead.

Careful planning is key to successful special needs trust administration. This way, families ensure their loved ones receive necessary financial support.