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Special Needs Trusts



Articles About Special Needs Trusts



  • 10 Tips on Administering a Special Needs Trust (NAELA News – Aug/Sept. 2012)
    Special needs trusts are more complicated than other trusts.  Here are a few tips to help you sort out the issues.
  • A Booming Business Serves Special Needs Families (Business Week – 1/8/09)
    Employers, financial services firms, and consultants are helping families with disabled members qualify for financial and educational aid
  • A Special Plan
    Regarding planning for children with special needs, many clients haven't ever properly addressed the nuances of special needs planning which can be complicated and subject to dangerous misunderstandings.
  • Caring for a Special Needs Child – Difficult Questions, Difficult Answers (Corp – 9/1/07)
    Parents with a special needs child worry most about what will happen to that child when they are no longer able to care for him or her…planning for the child’s life after the parent’s death can become complicated.
  • Divorces with Disabled Spouses or Children: How a Special Needs Trust Can Help! (Kelsey & Trask blog – 3/22/12)
    In a recent case, in which Kelsey & Trask and I share a client, a severely disabled woman in her late 30s, required a Personal Care Attendant through MassHealth to remain in her home. I created a SNT for her, and Attorney Kelsey obtained a Court order for the alimony to be paid directly into the SNT. To our surprise, MassHealth then rejected the procedure.  A copy of the hearing officer’s decision is available here.
  • An Estate Plan Built for Special Needs (Wall Street Journal)
    Patti's Comment:  This is a great summary of what we spend every day doing and it was written with input from some of our friends.
  • Estate Planning: The Advantages of a Stand-Alone Special Needs Trust (Lake County News – 2/25/12)
    Most people who have heard about special needs trusts are familiar only about the Testamentary Special Needs Trust. Testamentary trusts are established at the death of the person establishing the trust pursuant to his trust or will. Stand-alone Special Needs Trusts, however, are established while the benefactor is alive. Let us compare these two trusts.
  • Estate Planning for a Family with a Special Needs Child  Parents who have children who are minors or young adults have particular estate planning concerns that should be carefully considered. One concern is how to provide funds for the children if one or both parents die.
  • Estate Planning Strategies for the Special Needs Family (Trust & Estate Planning Law – 4/17/10)
    Special children require special estate planning. If the child is receiving government benefits, it is especially important to let family members know that their well-meaning gifts must be carefully planned.
  • Financial Concerns (Williams
    As the parent of a child with disabilities, one of your concerns will be to provide for the future for your child. It is important to make sure that all assets are kept out of your disabled child's name (including assets left in a will) so they can maintain financial eligibility for Medicaid and SSI. Currently, assets of just $2000 in your child's name will make them ineligible for SSI.
  • Financial Planning: Special Needs Trusts (ABA – 2/05)
    Much has changed in the emerging area of planning for the disabled.
  • Financially Preparing for Special-Needs Kids (Elder Law Attorney – 10/20/08)
    A good, simple overview of planning for a child with disabilities.
  • Funding a Special Needs Trust: How Much is Enough? (Academy of Special Needs Planners – 11/2/10)
    As a parent or guardian, you want to ensure that your child with special needs will remain financially secure even when you are no longer there to provide support.
  • Her Credo: Help, But First Do No Harm (American Banker – 3/1/12)
    Mary Anne Ehlert, a seasoned financial adviser, grew up with a sister who suffered from severe cerebral palsy. She not only helped out with the day-to-day care needs, but also came to understand how disabled people like her sister might be put in precarious financial situations because of bad planning.
  • How a "Sole Benefit Trust" Can Either Hurt or Help a Person with Special Needs (Special Needs Answers – 10/23/09)
    When helping older clients quickly qualify for Medicaid coverage of long-term care, elder law attorneys often ask right at the outset, "Do you have a relative with special needs?" The reason this question is so important is because under federal Medicaid law, someone applying for Medicaid long-term care (nursing home) benefits can transfer her assets into a special needs trust for the "sole benefit" of a person with disabilities, and that transfer will not disqualify the Medicaid applicant from receiving benefits. In other words, a senior who is willing to give away her assets to a person with special needs, and who meets all the other Medicaid eligibility requirements, can almost always qualify for Medicaid quickly.
  • How to Plan for the Future of Your Special Needs Child (Today video)
    The April 12 show's "Mini Money Makeover" segment was on how to plan for the financial future of your special needs child, and it featured an Ohio mother, Sara George, who has a 30-year-old son, Brad, with Down syndrome.
  • Knowing a Little About How Special Needs Trusts are Taxed Can be Helpful (Joseph Hoffmann)
    Having a little working knowledge about how Trusts are taxed can help you with planning for your special needs person. It will also help you to work more effectively with your accountant, lawyer and trustees.
  • Making Sure the Kids Are All Right (Wall Street Journal – 3-14-11)
    For parents of children with special needs, keeping up with the day-to-day care is challenging enough. Planning for the child's financial future is sometimes too much to contemplate. But, say financial advisers, proper planning can be the difference between children becoming homeless or thriving once their parents are gone. As daunting as such planning is, they say, it has to be done.
  • Maximizing Resources for Your Disabled Child (Legacy – 12/10/08)
    A little primer on Special Needs Trusts and how they help families plan for the future of their children with disabilities.
  • Next Steps: Children can help mom best with advice of a lawyer (Post-Gazette – 11/25/08)
    A good summary of Medicaid planning and the use of special needs trusts.
  • Okeechobee dad John Morgan accused of stealing over $40,000 from daughter's Special Needs Trust Fund (WPTV – 2/6/12)
    An Okeechobee man is accused of stealing over $40,000 from his daughter's special needs trust fund to purchase a vehicle and pay his personal bills. John Morgan, 34, was charged with second degree grand theft after investigators from the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) said he slowly took money out of an account meant to cover dental work and the needs of his daughter who suffers from cerebral palsy.
  • Plan for the Future Care of Your Special Needs Child —the right way (South Flordia Parenting – 12/20/13)

Estate planning is essential for the future of every family, but for families with loved ones who have special needs, the estate planning process is critical.  Estate planning is a fundamental tool that enables you, as parents of special-needs children, to make sure your children are cared for after you’re gone.

  • Planning a Future for an Adult Child with Disabilities: Steps to Take Now to Ensure Their Tomorrow (
    Among the many challenges facing parents of children with special needs is planning for the time when the parents will no longer be around to act as the primary caregivers. A generation of parents who have cared for their children with developmental disabilities at home now face their own old age and the prospect that their children may outlive them.
  • Planning Ahead for When Your Special Child Turns 18 (Exceptional Parent Magazine)
    Planning ahead is wise for all. It is essential for the future of a child with special needs who is about to turn 18. In most states, a child's 18th birthday signifies the moment when that child is legally presumed to be competent to make his or her own medical, financial, and educational decisions. Unless parents take precautionary steps to overcome that legal presumption, their child – legally – could quit school, sign up to purchase expensive toys or leave home.
  • Planning for IRA Beneficiaries with Disabilities (Oast & Hook Elder Law News – June 2007)
    An owner of an IRA needs to be aware of the importance of careful planning when an IRA beneficiary has a disability .
  • Protecting Assets for a Child With a Disability
    Excerpt from American Bar Association – Bifocal (March-April 2012 newsletter)
    Estate planning and lifetime planning for parents of a child with a disability present special challenges. The goals of the parents are to utilize their assetes in such a way as to enrich their child's life while at the same time preserving the child's public benefits.
  • Preserving Disability Benefits When Settling Personal Injury, Divorce & Worker Comp. Claims
    (Lawrence A. Friedman, Esq.)
    When arranging nearly any kind of payment for a disabled person– whether litigation or administrative award, alimony, child support, gift, or inheritance– lawyers must take account of disability program regulations, which are complex, often defy common sense, and may be at odds with tax considerations.
  • Planning for the Long Haul (Disability Scoop)
    Attorney Diedre Braverman answers questions about guardianship, when and how to set up a special needs trust and who to involve.
  • Qualified Disability Trusts Can Offer Tax Savings (Special Needs Answers – 4/12/10)
    As tax season comes to a close, donors and trustees should be aware that in certain circumstances, a third-party special needs trust may be treated as a "qualified disability trust" for purposes of income taxation. Why should you care? Because a qualified disability trust is allowed to take a much higher personal exemption than a regular trust, resulting in lower income taxes for the trust.
  • Settlement and Estate Planning to Safeguard Disability Aid (Lawrence A. Friedman, Esq.) (search Articles for title)
    Because so many disabled people rely on government programs for housing, food, medical care, day programs and other important benefits, two concerns arise when drawing wills, trusts and settlements that impact a client or client’s loved one with serious disabilities.
  • Settling Personal Injury, Divorce and Other Claims and Estate Plan to Safeguard Disability Aid
    (Lawrence A. Friedman, Esq.) (search Articles for title)
    Whether settling a disabled client’s personal injury, divorce, probate, or worker compensation claim or planning an estate, two considerations should be paramount: preserving eligibility for government programs and resolving public benefit liens.
  • Some Gifts Take More Than They Give (Register-Herald – 12/19/08)
    "Families of children with special needs must be very careful about accepting gifts from well meaning friends and family….Families have literally lost thousands of dollars in aid and services because they didn’t know how to plan.”
  • Special Needs Families – Planning Can Be Complicated (Nest Egg News – 5/22/10)
    While a firm foundation in financial planning is crucial for all families, it’s all the more critical to a family with a special-needs child. A family with a child with ongoing medical needs, financial planning requires a separate timeline for the disabled person, in essence requiring the parents/ sponsors to plan for two retirements [theirs and their dependent’s].
  • Special Needs Trust: Avoiding a Malpractice Trap (VA Lawyers Weekly – 3/16/09)
    Personal injury lawyers are cautioned against dabbling in the field when they get a settlement or judgment that could jeopardize benefits for a client. They could be doing more harm than good with their personal injury recovery, the experts say.
  • Special Needs Trust: How to Ensure the Care of Your Disabled Child (
    Initiate the trust as soon as you determine that your child may not be capable of supporting himself. If your child's development improves and he is able to earn a living, great—the trust can always be dissolved and the funds returned to you or given to the child. Special-needs trusts are complicated animals, however, and rules vary from state to state.
  • Special Needs Trust Provides Teachable Moments (Wealth Counsel – 5/4/10)
    Patti's Comment: This article discusses some of the complex issues that arise in settling a case for a person with a disability.
  • Special Needs Trust Q&A
    What is the best method for reimbursing the guardian of a Special Needs Trust beneficiary for monies spent on behalf of the beneficiary?
  • Special Needs Trusts Can Provide for Disabled Children (Post-Gazette – 8/18/09)
    After eagerly anticipating the birth of their first child seven years ago, Shawn and Sharon Widenhofer found themselves embarking on a parental journey they had not planned for when they learned their daughter, Sarah, had been born with Down syndrome.
  • Special Needs Trusts: How to Keep Your Win From Becoming Your Client's Loss (Kevin Urbatsch)
    Avoiding great hardship for a client who receives certain public benefits requires careful planning.
  • Special Needs Trusts: The Basics Every Lawyer Should Know (Michele P. Fuller)
    Part I: Knowing when a special needs trust may need to be implemented, what it is and how it works in the best interests of your client are essential basics all attorneys should know in order to avoid a client's benefit disqualification.
    Part II: What a Special Needs Trust Can Pay For
    In part I, the general principals of special needs trust distributions were discussed, as well as in-kind support and maintenance rules, referred to as ISM. Now, in part II, some of the most common requests for distributions will be discussed.
  • Special Rules Apply for Supporting People with Special Needs (NY1 – 5/27/10)
    Putting off preparing for your child's future can ultimately leave them at risk – particularly when it comes to money. While you might think you can provide for them in your will, a person with special needs who qualifies for government aid like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income can only have a certain amount of money in their name.
  • Taking Special Care With Inherited IRAs (Financial – 9/1/11)
    As advances in medicine continue, it's become more likely that special needs children may outlive their parents. Yet many families remain unprepared. Two-thirds of parents with special needs children have not prepared wills. Poor planning can be costly.
  • The Importance of Special Needs Trusts (JD Supra – 8/17/12)
    A sad case currently before the San Francisco Probate Court, In the Matter of the Fiorani Living Trust, deals with the tragic issue of what happens when a person abuses his position as trustee over a special needs trust meant to protect an individual who has developmental disabilities. Special needs trusts, when constructed appropriately, can help protect the disabled person from being taken advantage of and losing the money that is intended for their benefit.
  • The Proper Use of Life Insurance in a Special Needs Trust
    This article covers a topic that could help insurance agents really help a very motivated client base — parents with special needs children.
  • The Role of Special Needs Trusts (FindLaw – 11/23/10)
    For many who are unable to work because of severe disabilities, government programs such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid provide critical benefits. These programs ensure access to health care and offer limited financial support for basic needs. However, these are means-tested benefits programs, meaning that the benefits are only available to those with demonstrated financial need. Significant income or an increase in personal assets from any source may pose a threat to eligibility. This can pose a challenge when a disabled person receives substantial assets in a lump sum, as may be the case with a personal injury lawsuit or an inheritance.
  • The Top 10 Things that SNT Attorneys and Trustees Must Know About in the IEP, 504 Plan or IPP (Frank Johns – Stetson College of Law)
    Many SNTs have beneficiaries that are school age, with a majority of these beneficiaries in public school or residential environments. Schools and residential facilities must provide due process and individual planning for the beneficiaries. There are also mandates for transitioning into community or restricted placement for those beneficiaries beyond the age of majority and beyond school. Additionally, there are those older beneficiaries that have rights and protections in assisted living and more restricted environments.
  • Think About a Special Needs Trust (Chadd Leadership Blog – 12/3/08)
    Ever think about how you will provide for your child with special needs once you are no longer around? Any family with a child who has significant special needs should consider establishing such a trust.
  • Top Ten New Jersey Cases Involving Special Needs Trusts (Law Office of Donald Vanarelli Blog – 12/26/10)
    Here are my selections for the top ten New Jersey cases involving Special Needs Trusts / Disability Planning decided in 2009 and 2010. For those cases I previously blogged about,  a link to the blog post as well as the case is included below.
    Patti's Comment:  This is a great list of cases!
  • Top 15 Tips for Estate Planners When Planning for Special Needs (Katherine N. Barr, Richard E. Davis, Kristen M. Lewis)
    The world of special needs planning has come of age. Once considered a narrow specialty that rarely demanded much of a traditional estate planner's time, understanding how to protect the eligibility of a client's child with a disability for publicly available programs, including health care, is now essential.
  • Using Annuities for Long-Term Care Planning (Elder Law Weblog – 9/23/08)
    Insurance agents and financial institutions often advertise annuities as the perfect way to generate retirement income. While annuities can be a valuable retirement tool, if you are buying an annuity as part of a Medi-Cal planning strategy, you need to fully understand what you are getting.
  • Victory for Special Needs Trusts and Section 8 in DeCambre (6/20/16)
    On June 14th,  the First Circuit in the seminal (and very local) case DeCambre v. Brookline Housing Authority, reversed the decision of the lower court, and held that distributions of principal from a special needs trust are NOT counted as income for purposes of Section 8 calculations.
  • What Are the Responsibilities of an SNT Trustee? (Special Needs Answers – 8/2/11)
    The trustee of a special needs trust (SNT) has all of the duties of any trustee, plus specific added responsibilities due to the special needs of the beneficiary. This articles lists things that all trustees are responsible for and other important considerations.
  • What is a Special Needs Trust? (Mason Law PC)
    A Special Needs Trust, also referred to as a Supplemental Needs Trust, is a trust specially designed to hold assets on behalf of a disabled individual in a manner that will benefit the individual without jeopardizing that individual’s SSI, Medicaid or other government benefits.
  • What is a Special Needs Trust and How Could it Apply to You? (YouTube video)
    Basic info and examples from Shields and Boris law firm.
  • What is a Special (Supplemental) Needs Trust? (Special Needs Answers)
    Special needs trusts (also known as "supplemental needs" trusts) allow a disabled beneficiary to receive gifts, lawsuit settlements, or other funds and yet not lose his or her eligibility for certain government programs. Such trusts are drafted so that the funds will not be considered to belong to the beneficiary in determining eligibility for public benefits.
  • What is the Best Way to Fund a Special Needs Trust? (9/11/15)
    There is no “best way” to fund a special needs trust; however, there are several factors you should consider.
  • When is a Special Needs Trust Considered a Qualified Disability Trust for Federal Income Tax Purposes? (JD Supra)
    Special needs trusts for younger beneficiaries may be entitled to an income tax break on undistributed income.
  • When is a Trust a Special Needs Trust ( – 8/23/10)
    "Special Needs Trust" (SNT, sometimes called a "supplemental needs trust") is a generic term for a trust designed to supplement the means-tested government benefits of a beneficiary with a disability. If you think that none of your clients or their adult children would ever need government benefits, think again. By maintaining eligibility for cash income and health insurance, a family may stretch its collective resources to care for the individual with disabilities over time.
    Patti's Comment: A simple description from my friend Janet in Ohio.
  • Who Can Set Up a Special Needs Trust? (JD Supra)
    The answer depends on what type of Special Needs Trust – a Third Party Special Needs Trust or a First Party Trust. A third party trust, that is created to hold assets of another person for the benefit of the person with special needs, can be set up by anyone who is over the age of 18 and has the mental capacity to create such a trust. Typically, a parent or grandparent sets up a third party trust because they are usually the ones who are leaving assets to the person with special needs. However, with older couples, sometimes one spouse sets one up for the surviving spouse. In addition, a friend or other nonrelative may set up a third party special needs trust to be the recipient of gifts from other friends of the person with special needs.
  • Whole Life Insurance and a Supplemental Special Needs Trust: A Smart Combination for Providing Life-long Care for Family Members with Disabilties
    Paying for life-long care for a family member with disabilities can be financially overwhelming. Not knowing how your child will be cared for after you're gone is a heavy burden that weighs on most parents of children with special needs.
  • Why Plan for the Future? 
    The advantages and disadvantages of Trust are explored
  • Writing a Memorandum of Intent for a Special Needs Child (Donald D. Vanarelli Blog – 11/7/08)
    How can you ensure that your special needs child will remain well cared for and secure once others assume the role of guardian or caregiver? Also see sample Letter of Intent.