What is a special needs trust?
A special needs trust (also known as a supplemental needs trust or supplemental care trust) is a trust which holds the funds of a disabled person and which is written in such a way that the disabled person will continue to be eligible for public assistance programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and MaineCare (Maine Medicaid). These programs have strict income and asset limits. (The asset limit is $2000 for SSI and $10,000 for MaineCare). When a disabled person receives money from a lawsuit, inheritance or divorce, he or she may suddenly have too much money and may lose public assistance. The loss of medical coverage can be especially serious for a disabled person, who then may quickly deplete the newfound money on expensive medical care.
Under the special needs trust, the disabled person's funds are managed by someone else, called a “trustee.” The trustee rarely, if ever, distributes money directly to the disabled person but instead pays directly for things the disabled person needs. The primary purpose of a special needs trust is to pay for “special needs” items, other than food and shelter. “Special needs” items include: dental care, holistic health care not covered by MaineCare, supplemental nursing care, adaptive equipment, transportation, tuition, books, entertainment, periodic vacations, clothes, personal care; just to name a few.
How do we assist the client who requires a special needs trust?
- We meet with the client or a family member to learn about the client's personal and financial situation. If there is another attorney involved, such as a personal injury, medical malpractice or divorce attorney, we consult and collaborate with that attorney.
- We develop a plan which will enable the client or the client's disabled relative to keep SSI, MaineCare and other benefits while still having funds available to meet special needs. This might include the establishment of a special needs trust, the purchase of exempt assets, or a combination of these approaches.
- We obtain approval of the trust by the court, the Social Security Administration and the MaineCare office, where required.
- We assist in the transfer of assets to the trust, communicating with financial institutions as necessary.
- We assist with follow-up reporting to government agencies, once the trust is funded.
- We may also act as advisor to the trustee, providing ongoing advice as to how to carry out his or her duties in accordance with the law.
Read more about special needs trusts in our Blog section.
Attorney Sally M. Wagley has substantial expertise in the establishment of special needs trusts and is a frequent presenter on this subject at seminars for attorneys and other professionals.
For more information on our services, our fees, or to schedule an appointment, please contact us today.