Special Needs Trust Fairness Act Becomes Law

On December 7, 2016, the Senate approved the 21st Century Cures Act, which includes the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act, allowing competent individuals with disabilities to create their own special needs trusts.

Special Needs Trusts enable assets to be saved on behalf of people with disabilities, while protecting their eligibility for means-tested benefits. Programs such as Medicaid and SSI (Supplemental Security Income) require that applicants have no more than $2,000 in assets. These trusts can be used as a way of setting aside funds which can then be used for the many expenses not covered by public benefits. 

Prior law only allowed the family members of special needs individuals to establish the trust.  The law was enacted on the assumption that these disabled individuals lacked the mental capacity to manage their own affairs.  

This small change allows disabled individuals with mental capacity to establish their own trust without seeking the assistance of their parents, guardians, or the court.  They can also now fund their trust with their own assets without undue legal difficulties.  This Act is especially important for disabled individuals with mental capacity, without guardians to care for them, and whose parents and grandparents have passed.  These individuals can now establish their own trusts without having to hire an attorney to commence costly court proceedings so that the court can establish the trust on their behalf. 

If you are disabled, and likely to be eligible for “needs based” government benefits such as SSI (Supplemental Social Security Income) or Medi-Cal, you may want to consider creating a “Special Needs Trust”.

If you would like more information on how to set up a Special Needs Trust, please contact us at 949-347-5256 or fill out the contact us box.

Brian Chew, the managing partner of OC Wills & Trust Attorneys, has extensive experience in the areas of estate planning, asset protection planning, business succession planning, long-term care planning, and veterans’ benefits. By devoting his practice to estate planning matters, he has founded a firm that strives to provide exceptional service to their clients by working closely with individuals and their families to create comprehensive and customized estate plans. For the past twenty five years, Brian has served thousands of clients in the matters of estate planning, wills and trusts. If you have any questions about this article, you can reach Brian Chew here.