Loved ones, family members, and parents of special needs individuals know they often need a unique approach in helping care for the special needs child or adult in their life. This approach is often augmented by help from government benefits established to make life easier for people with special needs, such as Medicaid and Social Security. These programs, however, become unavailable to individuals above certain asset thresholds.
To help preserve access to this much-needed medical and living expense coverage granted by the federal government, caretakers and financial providers for special needs individuals may wish to set up special needs trusts. In a special needs trust, a grantor names a trustee to administer the trust and a beneficiary, who is the special needs individual. Funds are distributed from the trust without impacting income eligibility for these government programs. Special needs trusts must not be used for living expenses or medical expenses already covered by Medicaid or Social Security, but can be used for supplemental expenses, such as job training or educational program tuition, and even luxury expenses and non-essential costs like vacations, hobbies, or home furnishings. The beneficiary never has direct access to the trust.
There are two main types of special needs trusts: first-party and third-party. The following summarizes the key differences between the two types of trusts. An estate planning attorney can help determine which type, if any, of these two trusts makes the most sense for your family.