If you or a loved one has special needs, you will be faced with a unique set of issues when undertaking estate planning. This post is the first in a series aimed at assisting you in such planning. We begin by introducing you to some key terms.
1. A “Special Needs Trust” is used to hold assets for a person with a physical or mental disability or with chronic illness. The trust is not intended to provide basic levels of support but, rather, is intended to supplement public benefits (such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income) to which the disabled individual is legally entitled. Basically, a special needs trust aims to improve the quality of an individual’s life beyond the basic assistance provided by government programs.
2. “Disability” – In most cases involving special needs trusts, if an individual meets the eligibility criteria for receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, then that person is designated as disabled. Both of these government assistance programs will be discussed in Part 3 of our series.
3. “Beneficiary” – The special needs person for whom the trust is established.
4. “Grantor” (sometimes known as the “Settler” or “Trustor”) – The person who establishes the trust and, usually, the person whose assets fund the trust. There may be more that one grantor for a given trust.
5. ” Trustee” – The person who manages the trust assets and administers the trust provisions. There may be two or more trustees at the same time. On some occasions, the grantor(s) may also be the trustee(s).
Our next posting will address two different types of special needs trusts – “Self-Settled” vs. “Third-Party.”
Experienced Estate Planning Attorney, Elga Goodman, can help you navigate through the very complicated issues involved in establishing special needs trusts. Contact us today at 973-841-5111.
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