A sibling reports that her brother has down syndrome, a developmental disability, lives in a group home, and is currently working in a low-paying job. Their parents are deceased and never set up anything to help the son financially. The sister wants to help him but does not know how.
The above referenced scenario is how many consultations about special needs trusts begin when a special needs lawyer in NJ meets with a client for the first time. A close family member meets with a special needs lawyer and seeks advice on how to help the disabled family member financially. Oftentimes, individuals like the sister mentioned above have never heard of the term ‘special needs trust,’ but it is a special needs trust that the brother needs.
Eligibility for Programs that Assist Disabled People is Based on Income
Many programs for disabled people limit eligibility based on income, resources, or both. The types of government programs are SSI, Medicaid, housing aid, group homes, and other programs for people with developmental disabilities and mental illness. The first consideration for the sister is to make sure that whatever financial assistance she provides her brother will not negatively affect the benefits he already receives. In the example cited above, that is housing.
Means Tested Benefits
People with disabilities often receive means-tested benefits. Those benefits include supplemental security income (SSI), a monthly cash benefit, and Medicaid. The group home housing benefit of room and board is often paid by Medicaid, a health insurance program for individuals with modest means. To remain eligible for these benefits the disabled person is limited in the income he or she can earn and assets own.
Enter a Special Needs Trust
A special needs trust allows a disabled person, called a beneficiary, to use and enjoy property that is held in trust for his or her benefit and be able to receive need-based government benefits, like Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Medicare, or Medicaid to assist in his or her overall care.
The job of the trustee, the person who administers the special needs trust, is to use trust funds to support the beneficiary without jeopardizing government benefits. The trustee also has to pay taxes, keep records, invest trust property, and make sure that the beneficiary’s needs are being addressed.
The special needs trust is created with property like real estate, money, or tangible items. To qualify as a special needs trust, the trust itself must be irrevocable, meaning that it exists forever or until the funds are depleted. The funds are used for the benefit of the beneficiary and do not affect means-tested benefits.
How to Set Up a Special Needs Trust in New Jersey
Assemble a team that includes special needs lawyers in NJ when creating a special needs trust and make sure you involve all interested family members. Any error, even if inadvertent, can immediately affect eligibility requirements of a beneficiary. Contact a special needs lawyer at the Giro Law Firm for advice and counsel in drafting and/or administrating a special needs trust. Request a consultation today to learn how the Giro Law Firm can help your loved one plan for medical and financial security.
The Giro Law Firm is a New Jersey and New York law firm located in Hackensack, NJ that handles a wide range of legal matters that affect the elderly and disabled populations, including retirement, guardianship, health care, long term care planning, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and others. To request a consultation, click here or call (201) 690-1642.