Special Needs Trust (SNT): What It Is and How to Start One

Author Lee Cosi

Posted Apr 2, 2023

Reads 8.8K

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A Special Needs Trust (SNT) is a legal arrangement designed to provide financial support for individuals with disabilities. This type of trust allows families to set aside funds for their loved ones without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). A properly drafted SNT can ensure that the beneficiary receives the necessary care and support throughout their lifetime.

Navigating the complexities of setting up an SNT can be overwhelming, but it's important to start planning early. The process involves choosing a trustee, funding the trust, and outlining how the money will be used to provide for the beneficiary's needs. In this article, we will explore what a Special Needs Trust is, its benefits, and how to start one so that you can provide financial security for your loved one with special needs.

What is a special needs trust?

What is a special needs trust? A special needs trust is an estate planning tool that can help provide financial support for a loved one with a disability, without negatively affecting the means-tested government benefits they're receiving. For example, if your adult daughter receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to cover living expenses and has an asset limit of $2,000, receiving financial gifts could eliminate her eligibility for these needs-based government benefits. However, by creating a special needs trust, you can ensure that money is set aside to cover expenses without disqualifying her from SSI.

The trust will pay out as a supplemental resource meaning it won't eliminate your loved one's ability to receive government benefits. The goal of the trust is to cover expenses not covered by government benefits. For instance, the money can be used to pay for things like vacations or hobbies that are not covered by SSI benefits. This way, your loved one gets to enjoy their life while still receiving needs-based government benefits likewise.

According to IRS guidelines, you cannot draw money directly from the trust but instead must use it to purchase goods or services on behalf of your loved one. Lisa Bamburg, Registered Investment Advisor with LMA Financial Services in Jacksonville Arkansas recommends having insurance advantage as well as estate planning in place in case something happens beyond what you expected. Overall, creating a special needs trust can be an essential part of estate planning for families who have a loved one with disabilities and want to ensure their financial support doesn't impact their eligibility for important government benefits.

Third-Party Special Needs Trust

Third-Party Special Needs Trust is a type of trust that provides financial support to a person with special needs. This kind of trust is established when a family member places funds on behalf of the person with special needs in their estate plan. The main advantage of Third-Party Special Needs Trust is that it allows persons relative to continue receiving benefits from state-set asset and income limits, additionally Medicaid and other means-tested government benefits.

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The proper setup of Third-Party Special Needs Trust allows for the trustee to make decisions regarding disbursement without jeopardizing the person's eligibility for government benefits. It is essential to have a third-party special needs trust because it ensures that the person special needs receive viable income while still qualifying for government benefits. Also, if properly set up by an expert like CPT Institute, this trust can provide long-term financial security and stability for the person with special needs.

In conclusion, Third-Party Special Needs Trust should be considered as part of any person's estate plan who has a loved one with special needs. The establishment of this type of trust can be complicated, but it can provide significant advantages to persons relative to make sure that their loved ones are taken care of after they pass away. It is important to seek assistance from experts like CPT Institute to ensure that the Third-Party Special Needs Trust is correctly set up, which will guarantee that all legal requirements are met and prevent any future legal issues.

1. Who is a Third-Party Special Needs Trust For?

Short answer: A third-party special needs trust is for anyone who wants to place funds aside for the benefit of a disabled family member while preserving their eligibility for government benefits.

Third-party special needs trusts are commonly set up by parents, but they can be created by any family member or even a close friend. This type of trust allows family members to decide how to hold and manage inheritance or other assets in a way that will not affect the disabled child's eligibility for Medicaid or other government benefits. By using a third-party special needs trust, a disabled child can still receive the care and support they need while also allowing them to maintain their benefits and ensuring that the funds placed into the trust are used as intended.

Special needs trust fund fees and taxes

Special needs trusts are an excellent way to ensure that individuals with disabilities have the financial support they need throughout their lifetime. However, like any other financial tool, there are costs associated with setting up and maintaining a special needs trust. Costs generally speaking can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands, depending on the complexity of the trust.

It's important to note that ongoing fees will also be incurred as the trust is managed by a financial institution or advisor. These fees can vary greatly and should be carefully considered when setting up the trust. Generally speaking, the high side of these fees is around 1% per year of the total assets in the trust.

When it comes to tax implications, it's important to plan ahead and seek advice from both a financial advisor and a tax advisor. Special needs trusts may help reduce taxes for beneficiaries and their families, but inheritance tax rules can be complicated, so it's best to consider legal guidance when creating your trust. Providing background information about your loved one's disability and needs is essential for crafting an effective special needs trust that meets all necessary legal requirements while protecting your loved one's financial future.

Main Types of Special Needs Trusts

There are two main types of special needs trusts: the Third-Party Trust and the Individual Trust. A Third-Party Trust is created by someone other than the beneficiary, usually a parent or grandparent. An Individual Trust is created by the beneficiary themselves or their legal guardian. The purpose of both types of trusts is to provide for the ongoing care and support of a person with special needs without affecting their eligibility for government benefits.

First-Party Pooled Special Needs Trust

First-Party Pooled Special Needs Trust is a trust that benefits individuals with special needs. Unlike other trusts, the first-party special needs trust is funded using the beneficiary's assets, such as an inheritance or settlement from a lawsuit. The state-set limits required for government benefit eligibility are met by this trust.

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First-party pooled special needs trust offers statutory protections that ensure the client's life and living Medicaid reserves are secure. This type of trust funds medical costs paid while preventing any loss of government benefits. While it may sound scary to entrust your assets to a pooled investment model, rest assured that the first-party pooled special needs trust is completely secure.

Nonprofit organizations such as CPT Institute offer customized services contracts and fee schedules for their clients who opt for first-party pooled special needs trusts. Furthermore, their expertise in legal nuances ensures proper disbursements of the trust funds even after the client's passing. An added bonus is that these organizations operate as 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charities, which means that they have a vested interest in ensuring that their clients receive only the best care and services available.

Individual vs. Pooled Special Needs Trust

When it comes to special needs trust, there are two main types: the individual trust and the pooled trust. The difference between these two trusts is how they are managed and who benefits from them. In an individual trust, you'll appoint a trustee to manage your assets and ensure that your loved one with special needs receives the necessary care. This is an expensive option and may require a longer amount of time to manage.

A pooled trust, on the other hand, combines the assets of many individuals into one large fund. Knowing that your charity retains control over these funds can be reassuring for some families. In cases requiring medicaid recovery, this type of trust can be beneficial because remaining funds can go toward serving future clients in need. Another benefit of a pooled trust is that fees needed to maintain the trust are lower than those for an individual special needs trust.

The choice between an individual or pooled special needs trust will depend on each person's unique situation. For those who want more control over their money or who have significant assets, an individual trust may be right for them. However, for those who want to minimize costs while still providing for their loved ones with special needs, a pooled trust may be a better option. It's important to consult with a qualified attorney or appointed trust beneficiary advocate from organizations like CPT Institute when deciding which type of special needs trust is best for you and your family.

Do You Know if You Need a Trust for Special Needs?

If you have a loved one with a medical condition that requires ongoing care, you may be wondering how to financially support them without disrupting government resources such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid. A special needs trust can provide additional financial resources while ensuring that government benefits are not jeopardized. These benefits are means tested, meaning they have limited income and extremely low asset limits, with only certain countable resources being allowed.

A special needs trust is designed to provide support for individuals with disabilities without interfering with their eligibility for government benefits. By holding assets in a trust, parents can ensure their assets pass correctly and avoid the possibility of benefits ultimately taking money from the individual's resources left directly in their name. It is important to note that a parent's revocable trust is not sufficient and would not protect the individual's eligibility for government benefits.

Creating a stand-alone document known as a special needs trust is essential when providing long-term care for individuals with disabilities. This trust will not only protect your loved one's access to necessary government benefits but also supplement their financial situation without interfering with any existing entitlements.

The Golden Gates: Special Needs Trust Guide

When it comes to setting up a trust for someone with special needs, there are 3 golden gates that must be passed through. The first gate is to ensure that the trust does not jeopardize any government benefits the beneficiary may be receiving. The second gate is mental safety, ensuring that any disbursement request does not harm the beneficiary's physical or emotional well-being. Finally, the third gate is long-term interest – spending trust funds in a way that will benefit the beneficiary over their lifetime.

Statues by Temple Gate

This trust guide simply cannot stress enough how important it is to understand these 3 golden gates when managing a special needs trust. For example, if you use trust assets to purchase an expensive sports car for your loved one with special needs, this expense could jeopardize their government benefits. Instead, consider purchasing an affordable car that meets their transportation needs without risking those all-important government benefits.

As a fiduciary of the trust, your primary function is to spend money on behalf of your loved one in compliance with specific regulations and with their long-term interests in mind. This means avoiding requests like skydiving lessons or deep-sea cave exploration if they pose risks to mental or physical safety. Ultimately, understanding these 3 golden gates will help you continue receiving government benefits while improving the quality of life for your loved one with special needs.

Discover the Benefits of First-Party Special Needs Trusts

First-party special needs trusts preserve the financial security of a disabled person by allowing them to receive supplemental finances without affecting their eligibility for government benefits. These trusts provide a supplemental income that does not impact social security or medicaids eligibility criteria, which often have lower thresholds for receiving such financial support. This allows a disabled individual to continue receiving government benefits while safely receiving the trust's supplemental income.

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The main advantage of first-party special needs trusts is that the trustee essentially has full discretion to make distributions according to the beneficiary's supplemental income needs without impacting their government benefits. For example, if a person receives social security income (SSI), they can use their beneficiary's trust to pay for additional expenses, such as medical bills and living expenses, without losing their government benefits. Additionally, these trusts can be used to hold any type of asset such as workers compensation settlements, personal injury settlements, divorce settlements, retirement plans or life insurance policies.

By using these types of trusts, persons with disabilities and their family members can make decisions about how much money they want in the trust and how it will be distributed. This gives them greater control over their lives and provides more options for long-term financial planning. Ultimately, this enables beneficiaries to continue receiving government programs while supplementing their financial needs with a small amount from the trust.

1. Who is a First-Party Special Needs Trust For?

A first-party special needs trust is meant for individuals who undergo disabling accidents or illnesses and are receiving government benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In primary situations where an individual receives government benefits indefinitely, a first-party special needs trust can be used to supplement additional income or assets suppose. The trust helps individuals continue receiving benefits while also allowing them to receive supplemental assets or extra property without affecting government benefits eligibility.

This type of trust helps protect the individual's government benefits by placing property directly into the trust instead of in their own name, which would exceed state-set thresholds for government benefits. By using a first-party special needs trust, an individual can still qualify for government benefits while also having access to additional assets and income that can improve their quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can funds be spent with special needs trust?

Funds from a special needs trust can be spent on expenses that enhance the quality of life for the beneficiary, such as medical care, education, home modifications, and recreation. The trustee must ensure that the purchases are not disqualifying for government benefits and fulfill the primary purpose of improving the beneficiary's well-being.

How much should go into your special needs trust?

The amount that should go into a special needs trust depends on the individual's current and future needs. It's important to work with a financial professional and attorney to determine the appropriate funding amount for the trust.

Do you qualify for special needs trust?

You may qualify for a special needs trust if you have a disability or chronic illness that affects your ability to manage your finances and care for yourself. It is important to consult with an attorney experienced in estate planning and special needs law to determine if this option is right for you.

Can I make special needs trust without a lawyer?

Yes, it is possible to make a special needs trust without a lawyer, but it is highly recommended to seek legal advice to ensure the trust meets all legal requirements and provides proper protection for the beneficiary.

What can special needs trust be used for?

A special needs trust can be used to provide financial support for individuals with disabilities without affecting their eligibility for government benefits. The funds can be used for things like medical expenses, education, housing, and other essential needs.

Lee Cosi

Lee Cosi

Writer at CGAA

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Lee Cosi is an experienced article author and content writer. He has been writing for various outlets for over 5 years, with a focus on lifestyle topics such as health, fitness, travel, and finance. His work has been featured in publications such as Men's Health Magazine, Forbes Magazine, and The Huffington Post.

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