What is a special needs trust, and what is it used for?Read more
A Special Needs Trust (SNT) can play an important role in preserving the financial security and lifestyle of a person with special needs. A properly drafted SNT allows the individual to benefit from supplemental resources while still qualifying for public benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. Generally, when a parent or guardian wishes to establish and fund a trust for the benefit of a minor child, the attorney recommends a third-party SNT be set up for the child. But, when the person with special needs has their own assets, another option may be more appropriate: the first-party or self-settled SNT.
Like a third-party SNT, the first-party trust is designed to benefit individuals with special needs who qualify - or expect to one day require - public benefits that are available only to people with limited resources. Both third- and first-party SNTs allow assets to be set aside for supplemental expenses not covered by SSI or other resources. For example, a trustee can distribute SNT funds to pay for education expenses, a vacation or hobbies, but not for food or shelter, which are covered by SSI.
What differentiates a first-party SNT is the following:
A first-party SNT may be desirable when an individual with special needs has assets - or expects to receive assets - that would disqualify him or her from eligibility for public benefits. Some examples include:
Because each situation is unique, it is important to discuss the best alternative with a knowledgeable special needs planning attorney.