A Special Needs Trust is one which is set up for a person who receives government benefits so as not to disqualify the beneficiary from such government benefits. This is completely legal and permitted under the Social Security rules provided that the disabled beneficiary cannot control the amount or the frequency of trust distributions and cannot revoke the trust. Ordinarily when a person is receiving government benefits, an inheritance
or receipt of a gift could reduce or eliminate the person’s eligibility for such benefits. By establishing a Trust, which provides for luxuries or other benefits which otherwise could not be obtained by the beneficiary, the beneficiary can obtain the benefits from the Trust without defeating his or her eligibility for government benefits. Usually, a Special Needs Trust has a provision which terminates the Trust in the event that it could be used to make the beneficiary ineligible for government benefits.
Special needs has a specific legal definition and is defined as the requisites for maintaining the comfort and happiness of a disabled person, when such requisites are not being provided by any public or private agency. Special needs can include medical and dental expenses, equipment, education, treatment, rehabilitation, eye glasses, transportation (including vehicle purchase), maintenance, insurance (including payment of premiums of insurance on the life of the beneficiary), essential dietary needs, spending money, electronic and computer equipment, vacations, athletic contests, movies, trips, money with which to purchase gifts, payments for a companion, and other items to enhance self-esteem. The list is quite extensive. Parents of a disabled child can establish a Special Needs Trust as part of their general estate plan and not worry that their child will be prevented from receiving benefits when they are not there to care for the child. Disabled persons who expect an inheritance or other large sum of money may establish a Special Needs Trust themselves, provided that another person or entity is named as Trustee.