Out and About Talking Trusts In The Community

The last few weeks brought several exciting events and the opportunity for part of the team at The Special Needs Trust Network to get out and meet you! We’re always excited to meet not only individuals but members of other non-profits and agencies who work hard to make life better for people with disabilities or senior citizens. It’s always great to meet and talk to people who might not know what a special needs trust is and how it could help them. Or maybe if they’ve heard of special needs trusts they might have thought they didn’t have enough money to fund one.

We attended the Jefferson County Senior Law Day presented by by First Judicial Attorney Peter Weir and “Communities Against Senior Exploitation.” This was the third year for this outstanding event and location and we were certainly busy meeting people and answering questions and discussing special needs trusts. There were over 45 vendors and 15 break out sessions focusing on such issues as “Understanding Powers of Attorney,” “Grasping End of Life Issues, “”Avoiding Common Mistakes Involving Probate,” “Identity Theft Protection,” “Understanding Conservatorships and Guardianships” and many more. There was also the popular “Ask An Attorney” which gave attendees the opportunity to sit down and ask legal questions to an attorney for free. You can see a few of our pictures on our Facebook page,

If you missed this event in Jefferson County mark your calendars for the Denver Senior Law Day event July 27th at the Denver Merchandise Mart. This event will be much larger than the Jefferson County Senior Law Day but well worth the time and effort to attend. You can find more information at the Colorado Bar Association Senior Law Day website here.

The Special Needs Trust Network’s Executive Director, Rita Blackwood, attended the Assisted Technology 2013 Expo “Technology for Learning and Living” presented by The Assisted Technology Partners School of Medicine at University of Colorado. Rita is one of the most knowledgable people around when it comes to special needs trusts, Medicaid/Medicare, Social Security Disability (SSDI), Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) benefits and she’s also the parent of an adult child with disabilities. She was happy to meet other non-profits and agencies and to have the opportunity to meet people in our community. She spoke with people who already had special needs trusts set up for their children as well of those who had no idea what special needs trusts are and how they function to keep you or loved on benefits when you inherit money, receive a windfall, back payment, or have other assets.

Especially important to know for those parents who already have a third-party trust set up for their child is that a third-party trust does not cover all contingencies and some people need both first and third-party trusts, depending on who the money belongs to. More on this issue and the differences between a third and first party trust in upcoming blogs so make sure you check back in with us. We’re scheduling more events so we look forward to seeing you soon!

Special Needs Trust Network event table at Jefferson County Senior Law Day

Jefferson County Senior Law Day

Jefferson County Senior Law Day

Special Needs Trust Network at Jefferson County Senior Law Day

Tim Wood of The Special Needs Trust Network Jefferson County Senior Law Day

Special Needs Trust Network Senior Care Manager Tim Wood at the Jefferson County Senior Law Day

Jefferson County Senior Law Day

The Special Needs Trust Network at Jefferson County Senior Law Day Vendor lobby

Make note! Upcoming Events for Seniors & Caregivers

Spring brings in the change of season from the cold weather of winter into colorful blossoms and fair temperatures. It also brings in the lists of events that we attend and support throughout our community. These events bring together elder law attorneys, care givers, for-profit and non-profit organizations and others who work tirelessly to support the needs of seniors, both able-bodied and disabled. So grab your old fashion pen and paper, open that excel spreadsheet, or you iCal as here is a list of some great events to check out.

April 6 (Saturday) – Elder Care Resource Day – Timberline Church 2908 Timberline Rd, Fort Collins 8:00 am – Noon.

The following are all Senior Law Day events created and run by the Colorado Bar Association Elder Law Section in conjunction with local organizations
Jefferson County – June 1, 2013, Arvada Covenant Church
Denver County – July 27, 2013 at the Denver Merchandise Mart
El Paso County – August 3, 2013, Colorado Springs Senior Center
Larimer County – August 3, 2013, Fort Collins Marriott
Boulder County– August 10, 2013 at the Hotel Conference Center in Longmont
Northwest Colorado – TBD

We will post more about these events in future blogs and feed out through social media. So make sure you check back in with us here, at our Facebook page, and twitter feeds.

special needs trust network

special needs trust notebook

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13 Ways a Special Needs Pooled Trust Can Help You In 2013

2013 The Year of the Snake

2013 The Year of the Snake

Welcome to the New Year! A time when we consider resolutions, plans, hopes and moving forward into future with a fresh start. And welcome to 2013 The Year of the Snake in Chinese Astrology! While researching The Year of the Snake I found there are some interesting traits between Snakes and those of us working within Special Needs Pooled Trusts.  So let’s take a look.

Technically The Year of the Snake begins on February 10, 2013 and ends on January 30, 2014. The Snake is the 6th sign is the Chinese Zodiac and is also called the Junior Dragon. People born in the Year of the Snake are keen, cunning, quite intelligent, wise, graceful, and exhibit materialism.  When making decisions, Snakes are extremely analytical and as a result they don’t jump into situations. They are great mediators and good at doing business. These are all fabulous traits; we should be intelligent, do our research, take time, and be wise in our decision-making. So let’s all be more “snake-like” in 2013!

Additionally this is a year of the water Snake, meaning all things will be possible Top priorities are saving money and being thrifty which are good priorities in any year.  Delusion and deception are common in the year of water Snake, so stay alert!  To gain the greatest benefits from this year, you must control spending and use your talents wisely.

Again, many of the qualities listed for those born in the Year of the Snake are ones we all can aspire to when organizing our lives and finances to insure that 2013 and beyond are healthy, financially sound, and prosperous years.

So in the name of fresh starts, planning, The Year of the Snake, and Special Needs Trusts let’s have some fun with this and look at 13 Ways a Special Needs Pooled Trust Can Help you in 2013.

  1. Save and invest money while qualifying for or retaining your benefits.
  2. Plan for a child to live the same lifestyle they do now with you.  An Easter Seals Living with Disabilities shows there are 7 in 10  adult children with disabilities living with a parent or guardian and 52% of parents of a child with a disability are concerned about their child’s financial well being. Yet while parents concerns are high nearly one-third have done little or nothing to prepare. What happens when you are no longer here?
  3. Ability to receive back payment, settlement, or windfall and maintain benefits.
  4. Have an individualized assessment and plan done with a qualified care manager.
  5. Receive the proper care management when needed.
  6. Help the beneficiary access funds in ways permitted by state and federal legislation.
  7. Be an advocate for the person with disabilities. Unfortunately getting dropped from SSDI or SSI does happen, along with other possible issues. But as our client we will advocate on your behalf. We are here for you!
  8. Protection from financial exploitation.
  9. Minimal investment amount, but the same investment advice and experience that million dollar trusts receive through our private wealth management partner.
  10.  Very low set up fees compared to private trusts as we hold master trust documents for both first and third party trusts.
  11.  Help maintain compliance and reporting to state and federal agencies.
  12.  Knowledge that an experienced non-profit volunteer board has your needs in mind. We are not in this for the money but the belief in a better life for our clients.
  13. Peace of mind.

Ancient Chinese wisdom says a Snake in the house is a good omen because it means that your family will not starve.  Modern day Special Needs Pooled Trusts like The Special Needs Trust Network (SNTN) know that planning for the future today can protect you by maintaining your benefits, protecting assets, and creating a sense of financial well-being therefore limiting the possibility of “starving.” While we can’t protect you against every threat and not all investments earn positive returns on a regular basis we’re just asking you  to consider at least the first step;  think about protecting what you have now for the future.

At the Special Needs Trust Network we’re always just a click, call, or visit away. If you have questions or comments please reach out to us, there is no charge for this conversation and if you are outside of the state of Colorado we will happily refer you to other qualified and experienced non-profit pooled trusts.  Feel free to reach us at 303.331.4420, Info@SNTNetwork.org. and make sure that in the Year of the Snake you save money, gain the benefits you deserve and the peace of mind that comes with this.

 

Busy Summer, Blessed Fall

It’s that time of the year again when the weather starts to change and our cool mountain air turns more crisp and we are thankful for the snows that not only bring joy to the skiers in our state but bring much needed water for us in the coming year. While we look back at our busy spring and summer it’s time to reflect and give thanks on the busy time of our year when we get the opportunity to meet hundreds of seniors and their families looking for help in planning their financial futures. We at The Special Needs Trust Network are truly grateful for our clients and are honored to serve them.

The Colorado Bar Association puts on their award winning annual educational event for seniors, their caregivers and family members, Colorado Senior Law Day and it is one of the times we are blessed to meet many potential clients. Over the years the program has expanded beyond Denver to events in Larimer, Jefferson, and Boulder Counties as well as an upcoming expansion into Northwest Colorado. The Colorado Senior Law day offers educational seminars, programs and a vendor showcase specifically aimed at seniors, those adult children with a senior parent as well as care givers.

The Special Needs Trust Network has been a proud sponsor of these events since our launch over a year ago. We enjoyed getting to meet hundreds of people this past June in Jefferson County, at the Denver event at the Merchandise Mart, and in August in Longmont  for the Boulder County event, and in Fort Collins at the Larimer County Senior Law day.

Each event offers useful information and many resources, many targeted for that county, for seniors and their families to begin planning their specific financial, legal, and potential care needs. Each attendee to all of the events receives the Colorado Senior Law Day Handbook that is filled with resources and chapters detailing things like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security benefits, Long-Term Care Insurance, Veteran’s Benefits, Consumer Protection information for seniors, Estate Planning: Wills, Estates & your property and more. If you missed any of these events this year, make sure you check back into our website, Facebook page, or twitter #SpecNeedsTrust for updates on these wonderful events.

Health Care Ruling A Win for Those with Disabilities

The recent ruling by the Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA) was a win for people living with disabilities.

The signing of the Act by President Obama as his landmark legislation includes a number of provisions that go a long way in alleviating issues and stress for people with disabilities. Many of the provisions have yet to be fully implemented but the significant ones for those living with disabilities are:

  • No more lifetime coverage limits on health insurance plans.
  • Insurers will not be allowed to charge higher rates or deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, including disabilities or charge women more than men.
  •  Establishes the Community First Choice Option offering states the opportunity to receive increased federal matching funds to support community living.
  • Requires health insurance plans to cover a menu of “essential benefits” including mental health services, habilitation and rehabilitation services as well as behavioral health treatment.
  • 5.3 million seniors will continue to save $600 a year on their prescription drugs
  • Preventative care will still be covered free of charge by insurance companies including mammograms for women and wellness visits for seniors.
  • Efforts to strengthen and protect Medicare by cracking down on waste, fraud, and abuse will remain in place.

On the day the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the AHCA, Jonathan Young Chair of the National Council on Disability said, ““For millions of Americans with disabilities who rely on home and community based services to live, learn and earn in America, the ruling today by the Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act is arguably the most significant decision since passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act 22 years ago,”

The one possible negative impact for people with disabilities is that the justices did rule against the provision in the ACHA that called for states to expand Medicaid to include those earning up to 133% of the federal poverty level or lose out on federal funds. For a single person this currently amounts to about $14,856 in earnings. The court ruled that this mandate could not be imposed.

If states decide not to expand Medicaid to the above limits, and forgo the significant federal funding to do so,  there are many people with disabilities that could lose out on Medicaid coverage as they earn too much.  The decision on this one provision shows why appropriate financial planning for people with a disability is imperative. The use of a special needs trust can help in such situations as having too high earnings, or too many assets to qualify for Medicaid. As always we advise you to seek certified professional help not only from a special needs trust like The Special Needs Trust Network, but also with a certified elder care attorney when deciding on your financial planning needs.

 

Affordable Care Act helps people with disabilities

Briefly, What is a Special Needs Trust?

Many times we’re asked at The Special Needs Network, “Just what is a Special Needs Trust?” The “elevator speech” answer is:

A Special Needs Trust (SNT) contains the assets of an individual who is disabled, and protects those assets from being counted as a resource for means-tested public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Medicaid and Medicare. In the United States SNT’s are also known as Supplemental Needs Trusts and can have unique advantages in relation to the provision of health care, long-term care, and nursing home care benefits especially when using Medicaid.

Because The Special Needs Trust Network is a “Pooled Special Needs Trust” we also get asked what that is..Simply put a “pooled” Special Needs Trust (SNT) is a trust that “pools” all beneficiary funds together for investment and administrative purposes while maintaining an individual sub-account for each beneficiary. A self-settled pooled SNT like the one run by The Special Needs Trust Network is authorized by a specific Federal stature: 42 United States Code, Section 1396p (d) (4) (c) and therefore is often referred to as a d4c trust. This same statue says that pooled trusts could be administered by non-profits and there are now non-profit pooled trusts operating in all fifty states.

The beauty of the pooled trusts is that we don’t have to accept only large amounts of money because we pool all of the money into one master trust. Beneficiaries receive interest and capital gains earnings on their investment principal in direct proportion to the percentage of the pool the money in their sub-account represents. Many banks and investment companies won’t create trusts for anything under $1 million dollars, and even with $250,000 many times beneficiaries have a hard time finding an investment partner to create an SNT. A non-profit pooled trust like The Special Needs Trust Network will help clients of all financial ranges from five-figures on up to beyond $1 million.

Special Needs Trusts are used frequently to:

  • Receive an inheritance
  • Accept a personal injury settlement
  • Collect Insurance settlements
  • Receive Windfalls
  • Collect back payments

Receiving money in any of these ways without having a proper SNT set up can cause a disabled person to lose some or all of their needed benefits. Contrary to many sensational news stories regarding large settlements we see individuals who many times receive far less than $100,000. Asset guidelines for an individual applying to qualify for Medicaid or who are on Medicaid have to meet SSI guidelines which are:

  •  Single applicant no more than $2,000 in countable assets
  • Married applicant no more than $3,000 in countable assets

As you can see just accepting the normal back payment from SSDI, which is usually around $10,000, after waiting to qualify can cause someone to potentially lose benefits. You can see why a properly set up and administered pooled SNT can help those people who need it the most. In future blogs we’ll discuss the two types of SNT’s; first party and third party, as well as expand upon the benefits of these trusts.

If considering an SNT please talk to a qualified and certified elder care or trust attorney easily found at both The National Elder Law Foundation (NELF), and The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).  Please check back for further information regarding SNT’s their variations, uses, and benefits, and as always we look forward to your questions and comments.

Second Annual Regional Pooled Trust Administrator’s Conference

Today ends the second annual conference of regional pooled trust administrators within the rocky mountain region. Last year The Special Needs Trust Network (SNTN) was proud to host 8 administrators from various pooled trusts from Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, and Wyoming here in Denver. This was the first time administrators from various non-profit pooled trusts had come together to join forces, discuss issues, and plan for their yearly meeting at the Stetson Conference.

This year’s meetings are wrapping up in Santa Fe, New Mexico and have covered various topics including:

Lewis vs. Alexander, ABLE Act
Social Security/ Medicaid Updates
HUD
Issues of Importance Affecting the Management of Pooled Trusts
Administration and Disbursement From a Pooled Special Needs Trust
Other Issues

Managing and administrating a special needs pooled trust is complex and trusts must meet both state and federal standards covering trust documentation, disbursements, and tax laws. We also work hard to be our clients advocate, offer top quality care management to those clients who need it, handle our fiduciary responsibilities in an ethical honest way, and work with our financial partners to maximize gains with minimal risk for our clients investments.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how a non-profit pooled trust can assist you, or a friend or family member who has a disability please check out our website at www.sntnetwork.org. Or if you’re in another state search online for special needs pooled trusts. Before making any decision please remember to get the advice from a certified elder law (CELA) or trust attorney. Finding a qualified elder attorney can be as easy as going to the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), or the National Elder Law Foundation where you can find a CELA by state.

In two previous blogs, “Tax Time, Planning, and Special Needs Trusts” and “Meet Elder Law Attorney and SNTN Board Member John Campbell”you can find additional information on special needs trusts and CELA attorneys. As always, we welcome both your questions and comments.

Engineer Mountain, Silverton, CO

Engineer Mountain, Silverton, Colorado

Add A New Family Member, June is National Cat Adoption Month.

Each spring we watch our gardens bloom, grass grow, and rejoice in warmer weather. But let’s not forget our four-legged friends when we’re tending our yards and gardens because spring also means more newborn animals added to shelters across the country. We’re all animal lovers here at The Special Needs Trust Network and we all have animals as members of our families. So as it’s June 1, we’d like to remind you that it’s National Shelter Cat Adoption Month.

The positive effects that animal companions have on humans are well researched; ordinary interactions with animals can lower blood pressure and increase survival rates after a heart attack, and teach children nurturing behavior and appreciation of non-verbal communication. For those people living alone animals provide companionship and increase the opportunity of meeting people. Our care managers see the positive effects that companion and service animals have on our clients and we’re also able to create a pet trust or add the companion animal into a clients will as needed.

During this month, many shelters are waiving their adoption fees on adult cats. One such shelter here in Colorado is the Dumb Friends League in Denver who is waiving their fee this month on both adult cats and dogs 1-year or older. See their adoption info by clicking here: Dumb Friends League adoption. If you’re looking to add a new four-legged member to your family here are some tips on cat adoption from the American Humane Association.

  • If you’re thinking about adopting a cat, consider taking home two.
  • Find a cat whose personality matches with yours.
  • Pick out a veterinarian ahead of time and schedule a visit within the first few days following the adoption.
  • Make sure everyone in the house is prepared to have a cat before it comes home.
  • Budget for the short- and long-term costs of a cat.
  • Stock up on supplies before the cat arrives.
  • Cat-proof your home. Many plants, household items, cleaners, and foods are toxic to pets.
  • Go slowly when introducing your cat to new friends and family.
  • Be sure to include your new pet in your family’s emergency plan.
  • If you’re considering giving a cat as a gift, make sure the recipient is an active participant in the adoption process.

From my personal experience as a long-time pet adopter you don’t have to look for that cute, cuddly, kitten (or puppy, for that matter) but adopting an adult animal may actually fit your lifestyle a lot better. Adults are more sedate, just as loving, and most are already trained. Also make sure you’re not allergic, and that the adopting agency will help you with issues and if any issues become untenable that you can return the animal to the rescue group or shelter. Please make sure your new family member has an identification tag and/or microchip with your current phone and address in case they might get lost and please be patient with your new family member as they adjust to life in your house and your routines.

The Special Needs Trust Network is located in Colorado where we are fortunate to have one of the world’s best veterinary teaching hospitals located at Colorado State University. They not only provide great medical services to our companion animals and livestock but also have a pet hospice program that offers in home end-of-life care for terminally ill companion animals and emotional support and education for their families. The pet hospice relies on volunteers and donations. If you’re in the Fort Collins, CO area on June 4th there is a fun event to support the pet hospice. The Blues Benefit for Pet Hospice will be held at the Canyon Chophouse back patio from 5 pm – 8:30 pm. See more details here: Blues Benefit for CSU Pet Hospice

Whether you choose to adopt a cat or kitten remember don’t stress. Have fun, enjoy, and learn from your new companion.

Best wishes and make sure you let us know how it goes! Leave a reply, Like our Facebook page, and follow us on twitter @SpecNeedsTrust.

 

Access Pass Allows People with Disabilities to Enjoy National Parks Free!

There are nearly 400 national parks across the United States (including the lower 48 states, Hawaii, Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands) from the very famous like the Grand Canyon, Statue of Liberty / Ellis Island and Gettysburg to some lesser known but still stunning parks like the Badlands in N.Dakota, the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee, or the desolate but beautiful Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior. This week (April 21-29) is National Park week during which entry to any national park is free. To find a National Park go to: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm. To find more activities, and information on National Park Week as well as to share your photo’s and videos go to: http://www.nationalparks.org/national-park-week-2012.

But for people with a disability, park entry is always free with the Access Pass. The free lifetime Access Pass also may provide for a 50 percent discount on some amenity fees charged for “facilities and services such as camping, swimming, boat launching, and specialized interpretive services.” Although this pass does not usually cover or reduce recreation permit fees or fees charged by concessioners. The pass also covers entry into 2,000 recreation sites that are managed by five Federal agencies. You can get an Access Pass in person at a federal recreation site or through the mail using this application form. Applying through the mail will cost $10 for processing the application and you must prove the following by mail or in person:

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or residency in the United States.
  • Documentation of permanent disability that severely limits one or more major life activity.
The documentation needs to prove a permanent disability by any of the following ways:
  • Statement by a licensed physician
  • Document issued by Federal agency such as Veteran’s Administration, Social Security Disability Income, or Supplemental Income
  • Document issued by State agency such as vocational rehabilitation agency.

If applying my mail, any documents pertaining to your disability will be returned with your pass.

Since 2006, the National Park Service (NPS) has been working with the National Center on Accessibility (NCA) at Indiana University in a long-term cooperative agreement to provide technical assistance and continuing education services in making the parks and their programs as assessable as practically can be based on the park. The NPS has also initiated an Audio Visual Initiative for Visitors with Disabilities which funded upgrades to programs that were not captioned for those who are deaf and / or added assisted-listening devices for those with hearing loss. The goals of the initiatives have been to make the National Parks as accessible as possible and that people with disabilities can participate in the same programs, activities, and employment available to everyone else.

Please remember, National Parks vary greatly; some are underwater preserves, some in rough and desolate areas, so access can be limited by the features and terrain of the park itself. It is always best to call the park you plan on visiting and asking. The NPS maintains an excellent website dedicated to accessibility issues: National Parks: Accessible to Everyone which features information on accessible opportunities (detailed by region and park), trails, camping, picnic areas, as well as visually and hearing impaired features.

For more information and a full overview of the Access Pass see Frequently Asked Questions about the Interagency Access Pass on the National Parks website. There is also a lifetime $10 Senior Pass for U.S. Citizens 62 years-old and older, and information can be found by clicking on the  previous link along with expanded information on this pass under Frequently Asked Questions about the Interagency Senior Pass.

Feel free to check out the Special Needs Trust Network Flikr site where I have uploaded pictures of my personal 2011 trip up Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). The Special Needs Trust Network is based in Colorado the fortunate home to thirteen national parks, and those of us living in the Denver / Boulder area are blessed to have RMNP practically right in our backyard.

Due to it’s elevation Trail Ridge Road is open only between late May and October barring any early or late season snow, and at the crest of the road is located the highest visitor center within the National Park Service. The road is officially U.S. Highway 34, also known as Trail Ridge Road/Beaver Meadow National Scenic Byway and is the highest continuous highway in the United States. For some dramatic pictures from 2011, a year in which Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park had above record snow falls click here: http:www.nps/gov/romo/parknews/pr_trail_ridge_road_opening_delay_2011.htm

So get out and enjoy our National Parks no matter where you live or what your abilities are!

Rocky Mountain National Park Trail Ridge Road

Tax Time, Planning, and Special Needs Trusts

Tax time!

It’s tax time in the United States and both individuals and CPA’s are scrambling to hit the upcoming April 17 deadline for filing personal income taxes. Many times people realize all too late that not planning during the previous year causes them to lose out on possible deductions costing them money in the long run. If you have a child with a disability not planning can pose more problems then just losing some deductions.

For the non-planners and planners a like, one item not usually discussed at this time of the year but should be is estate planning. I know, I said it, “estate planning.” Don’t think that this is only for “old” or “rich” people deciding on how to parcel up their estate when they die and/or trying to avoid paying taxes. While estate planning can be this, it is so much more. AND if you have a child, relative, or even a friend who is a person living with a disability this planning becomes more pertinent and urgent no matter what your age.

To look at why planning is so important let’s look at some numbers. There are 54 million Americans, or 19 percent of the population aged 5 or older who are living with a disability, according to 2010 Census survey data. 11 million of these people aged 6 and older need personal assistance with everyday activities and tasks such as getting around inside their home, taking a bath or showering, preparing meals and performing light housework. The breakdown by age groups shows the following:

• 5 percent of children 5 to 17 have disabilities.
• 10 percent of people 18 to 64 have disabilities.
• 38 percent of adults 65 and older have disabilities.

For those who have a child with a disability or anyone wanting to will any part of their estate to a grandchild, niece, nephew, or friend a special needs trust (SNT) is just the vehicle. There are two main types of SNT’s; a private SNT set up by an attorney naming usually a family member as the designated trustee, with the money managed by a financial institution or financial service company, and a pooled special needs trust set up and run by a non-profit that pools all of the money invested, holds the master trust, and oversees the financial management of the money. Although the money is pooled for investment and management purposes, a separate account is held for each beneficiary. Pooled trusts usually always also offer specialized and individualized care management plans when needed by the beneficiary. Special Needs trusts are also known in the United States as “Supplemental Needs Trusts.” Or “D4C Trusts” after the tax code that created them. One example of a non-profit pooled SNT is The Special Needs Trust Network.

While government programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI), Medicaid, and Medicare are helpful to people with disabilities they cannot provide everything and they come with many regulations to qualify and to stay on the programs. Trying to be the “nice” or “caring” relative and giving money to a disabled relative as an inheritance without planning can cause more problems for that friend/relative including possibly having them lose their benefits. SNT’s are also used in instances such as personal injury litigation, back payments, windfalls, or when personal needs funds have reached their limit. Special Needs Trusts are governed by rules that vary by state to state and therefore can be complicated. You should seek qualified and experienced legal advice from an elder law and estate-planning attorney as part of your planning. A good place to start is the website of the National Academy of Elder Care Attorneys (NAELA)

But if you have a family member, or friend with a disability the time to start is now. In future blogs I’ll discuss each type of SNT and their advantages and disadvantages but for now just get through tax time! Whether you owe the government or will be receiving a refund you owe it to yourself and the ones you love to start planning!