As we have discussed previously in our blog, trusts can be powerful tools to protect and distribute assets for individuals in a variety of circumstances. One particular kind of trust is called the special needs trust, which is designed specifically for individuals with a disability. This type of trust distributes assets without eliminating its beneficiaries from public benefits, allowing them to receive the care they need while also maintaining a high quality of life even with their disability.
What Are the Kinds of Special Needs Trusts?
First, there is a “first-party trust,” which forms when a trust beneficiary receives some kind of asset, whether it be in the form of money, property, or stock. Normally, when a person’s assets rise to a certain level, that person is disqualified from public benefits that could help provide care for their disability. By using the first-party trust, however, the individual can put the funds into a trust and still receive public benefits. The downside of a first-party trust is that when the beneficiary dies, the state Medicaid agency gets whatever funds are left over at the time of death.
A second kind of special needs trust, the “third-party trust,” forms when someone wants to give a person with a disability a gift or inheritance. The funds in the third-party trust don’t actually belong to the individual with the disability – they are only being used for that person’s benefit. One important upside to the third-party trust is that the government does not end up taking the remainder of the funds when the beneficiary dies, since the funds never belonged to the beneficiary in the first place.