Special planning is required to meet the needs and circumstances of many beneficiaries. When families include individuals with disabilities as beneficiaries, special or supplemental needs trusts (SNT) are often an effective estate planning tool. The basic purpose of these trusts is to benefit or enhance a loved one’s quality or standard of life while preserving eligibility for governmental benefits.
Family members with disabilities or special needs often require assistance in covering large and extraordinary care costs. Qualification for governmental assistance is often unavoidable. SNT’s are designed to be used in addition to governmental assistance, not to replace it or disqualify one from eligibility (even assistance in the form of Medicaid). In a nutshell, proper and effective SNT’s, when funded and administered, allow a beneficiary to continue to qualify for various forms of governmental assistance.
Generally, funds from a special needs trust cannot provide or pay for basic needs such as medical care, food and shelter, that are covered by a governmental program. However, SNT’s can pay for “extras” that governmental programs do not cover, for example, recreation, entertainment and unreimbursed medical, to name only a few. The beneficiary does not have a right to demand or control funds. A Trustee controls the trust and is allowed only to make distributions that do not disqualify the beneficiary.
Special needs trusts provide extra assistance and increased quality of life for our disabled loved ones. Where an individual has qualified for governmental programs that meet the most basic of needs, SNT’s can be utilized to provide the joy that we all experience from travel, recreation, hobbies and more.
Special needs trusts are complicated, but worth it. Special people deserve special and careful planning.
by Anne Hensley-Poindexter, Partner
Campbell Kyle Proffitt LLP