There are generally two types of private special needs trusts:
- Third Party Special Needs Trusts; and
- Self Settled Special Needs Trusts (also known as First Party Special Needs Trusts or D-4A Trusts).
A person who is receiving (or about to receive) Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may wish to consider establishing a Special Needs Trust just before he or she is about receive a substantial gift, inheritance or personal injury award. By receiving money outright, the person will no longer be eligible to receive SSI and Medicaid.
The Social Security Act (Section 1396p(d)(4)(A)) specifically allows a Special Needs Trust to be created for a person so that the person can continue to qualify for Medicaid and SSI. This particular trust is called a Self Settled Special Needs Trust because it is being funded with the person’s own money (as opposed to money given to a trust by a third party).
The prime difference between the terms of a Self Settled Special Needs Trust and a Third Party Special Needs Trust is that when the beneficiary of a Self Settled Special Needs Trusts dies (or the trust terminates), the balance in the trust must pay off any Medicaid liens that have been built up. If there is money left in the trust after that, the balance can be paid to the beneficiary’s relatives. With a Third Party Special Needs Trust, there is no payback provision necessary.
The reason why a beneficiary of either a Self Settled Special Needs Trust or a Third Party Special Needs Trust can qualify for SSI and Medicaid is because those trusts are limited in what they can pay for. In general, the trust may not pay for food, shelter, electricity, gas or water and it may not pay for anything that can be converted into food, shelter, electricity, gas or water. So cash should almost never be distributed to a beneficiary from the trust. (Note: there are special rules about a trust owning a home)
A Self Settled Special Needs Trust can be created on behalf of the individual who receives the money by the person’s guardian, the person’s parent or grandparent, or by a court (as often happens in personal injury settlements). The beneficiary must be under the age of 65 when the trust is created and funded and the trust must be for the sole use of the beneficiary.
The costs of creating a Special Needs Trust vary from attorney to attorney, however, hundreds of thousands can be saved by setting up one properly.