Special Needs Trusts: What Every Estate Planning Professional Needs to Know
The essential purpose of a special needs trust is to provide a means for support of an individual with a disability without disqualifying him or her from eligibility for public benefits. Therefore, one of the central duties of the trustee of a special needs trust is to understand what public benefits programs might be available to the beneficiary and how receipt of income, or provision of food or shelter, might affect eligibility. Since there are numerous programs with competing (and sometimes even conflicting) eligibility rules, and at least two different types of special needs trusts to contend with, the entire area is fraught with opportunity to make mistakes. The stakes in this area are often very high as in many instancesthe public benefits programs are providing all the necessities of life to the beneficiary. A proper understanding of the types of trusts, the common government benefit program rules and the pitfalls inherent in the administration of these trusts is critically important.