What is the purpose of Supplemental Needs Trusts?
Supplemental Needs Trusts (also known as Special Needs Trusts) are vehicles that can hold assets for a person with a physical or behavioral health disability while still allowing that person to qualify for public benefit programs that have income and resource limitations. Examples of such public benefit programs include Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). The person who establishes the trust is known as the settlor or grantor, and the person who receives trust funds is known as the beneficiary. In the case of Supplemental Needs Trusts, the beneficiary is the person with a disability.
What are the different types of Special Needs Trusts?
There are various kinds of Supplemental Needs Trusts. A First-Party Supplemental Needs Trust, also known as a Self-Settled Trust or a d4A Trust, is one that is funded by beneficiary. For example, a person may receive monies from a lawsuit settlement, inheritance, or divorce settlement. These assets belong to the person with a disability and can be used to fund a First-Party Supplemental Needs Trust. A Third-Party Supplemental Needs Trust is one that is funded by someone other than the beneficiary. For example, a parent or grandparent may establish a Third-Party Supplemental Needs Trust for a family member. A third type of Supplemental Needs Trust, a pooled trust or d4C Trust, is one that is administered by a non-profit organization. It permits several beneficiaries to pool their trust assets together into a larger trust for investment purposes, while still allowing each beneficiary to maintain an individual trust sub-account.
How are First-Party and Third-Party Supplemental Needs Trusts different?
Federal law governs First-Party Supplemental Needs Trusts. These types of trusts are subject to stricter rules because they hold the assets belonging to the beneficiary while still allowing that beneficiary to qualify for programs such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income. First-Party Supplemental Needs Trusts can only be established for a person with a disability who is under the age of sixty-five. They also can only be established by a parent, grandparent, legal guardian, court order, or the person with a disability. These types of trusts are subject to the “sole benefit” rule, meaning that distributions made from the trust cannot benefit anyone other than the beneficiary during that beneficiary’s lifetime. While the sole benefit rule may sound simple, in practice it can challenging, as many distributions can also benefit someone living with or close to the beneficiary. In addition, First-Party Supplemental Needs Trusts have a Medicaid payback provision, meaning that after the person with a disability passes away, the State will be reimbursed for the costs of medical assistance provided to that person from trust funds.
In contrast, Third-Party Supplemental Needs can be established for someone of any age. As long as the beneficiary does not have the ability to control trust distributions or to revoke the trust, trust assets are not considered an available resource for purposes of Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income eligibility. Third-Party Supplemental Needs Trusts are not subject to the sole benefit rule and therefore these trusts can have more than one beneficiary. In addition, a significant benefit of Third-Party Supplemental Needs Trusts is that these trusts are not subject to the Medicaid payback provision.