A special needs trust sets aside funds to benefit a person with a disability. These trusts are common tools for parents of children with special needs, as they improve the beneficiary’s quality of life without interfering with his or her eligibility for needs-based government benefits.
If your child is eligible for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income or other public programs with income guidelines, you may want to consider establishing a special needs trust. When forming one, you must name a trustee to manage the trust. Like other types of trustees, special needs trustees must perform several duties. They also must accomplish some tasks that are unique to special needs trusts.
General trustee duties
Overseeing a trust is a solemn responsibility that all trustees must take seriously. Among other activities, you can expect any trustee to perform the following functions:
- Accurately account for funds or property in the trust
- Responsibly invest the trust’s funds
- Successfully disburse funds to the beneficiary or beneficiaries
- Correctly file taxes and required reports
Special duties for special needs trustees
Special needs trustees owe a fiduciary to the grantor and the beneficiary. This means the trustee must act legally and ethically when administering the trust. To do so, your special needs trustee must complete these additional tasks:
- Communicate with professionals who work with the beneficiary
- Understand the financial and lifestyle needs of the beneficiary
- Ensure the beneficiary meets eligibility requirements for needs-based assistance
- Prepare necessary reports for agencies that administer public programs
To ensure your disabled son or daughter has the financial resources he or she needs to thrive, you must have a competent and responsible special needs trustee. Regrettably, though, not all special needs trustees comply with their legal obligations and fiduciary duties. Therefore, to protect both your disabled child and your financial interests, you must work to understand the essential tasks your special needs trustee must complete.