What is a special needs trust?

A Special Needs Trust (SNT) is an important part of planning for a relative with a disability. A Special Needs Trust SNT) is an important part of planning for a relative with a disability. There are several reasons for setting up a SNT and an attorney knowledgeable in this area should always be consulted. When done properly, a SNT can supplement your loved one’s needs without jeopardizing his or her eligibility for crucial benefits, such as SSI and Medicaid.

Trustee Options

An important part of this process is the selection of a trustee. A trustee can be an individual,such as a family member, or a corporate entity, such as a bank or an organization like Planned Lifetime Assistance of New Jersey (PLAN/NJ).Remember that any trustee, individual or corporate, is entitled to a commission for their services and that fees will apply to bank accounts and investment accounts owned by the trust,as they would for a personal banking or brokerage account.

  • Professional: You may wish to approach a professional trustee such as PLAN/NJ to administer the trust. An attorney with expertise in estate planning for people with disabilities can assist in creating a Special Needs Trust document or you can establish a sub-account in a Pooled Trust such as the PLAN/NJ Community Trust. The professional Trustee monitors requests, prepares distributions and invests the trust assets. Trust assets are invested by a financial manager hired by the professional Trustee. The investments utilized depend on the size of the trust and the projected needs of the beneficiary. Certain institutions or organizations serve as trustee and provide investment management. However, many financial institutions will not administer SNTs, so be sure to check.
  • Family Member: You may wish to name a family member as trustee. An attorney would need to prepare a SNT. The family member appointed as trustee should have somefinancial knowledge, be willing to learn about the requirements of SNTs and public benefits rules regarding these, and be trustworthy enough to manage funds that are left in trust for your loved one. The trustee must ensure that the money is invested properly, that the money is used only for the beneficiary’s needs, and that the money is not used in such a way as to jeopardize the beneficiary’s government benefits. A successor trustee should be named in case the family member appointed as trustee is unable or unwilling to serve, and to ensure continuity of trust administration.

Trust Options

  • Pooled: You may opt to open a sub-account with a Pooled Trust such as the PLAN/NJ Community Trust. The PLAN/NJ Community Trust is a Pooled Trust for individuals with disabilities and PLAN/NJ is the sole trustee. The Community Trust has a Master Trust and Joinder Agreement, therefore a new trust document does not have to be created by an attorney. However, the Master Trust and Joinder Agreement are binding legal documents and should always be reviewed with an attorney. The sub-accounts within the Pooled Trust are accounted for separately, but are pooled together for investment and management purposes, so this can be a good option for smaller trusts. With a Pooled Trust, individuals who are mentally competent can establish their own sub-account.
  • Private: You may have an attorney create an individual or private SNT and appoint PLAN/NJ as -Trustee. An attorney drafts the trust document separately or as part of an estate plan.

For more information on Special Needs Trusts, read “Special Needs Trusts and Quality of Life”. PLAN/NJ would be happy to speak with you in detail about your family’s individual needs. Please contact our Director of Trust Services, Nancy Dilliplane, at (908) 575-8300, extension 15 for more information or to schedule a consultation.