Special Needs Trust Fairness Act to Give Disabled Individuals Increased Access to Special Needs Trusts

Law Firm Newswire



San Francisco, CA (Law Firm Newswire) December 7, 2015 – In September, the Senate approved legislation that would allow disabled individuals to create special needs trusts for themselves.

Known as the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act, the bill corrects the assumption that all people with disabilities lack the mental capacity to create their own trusts.

Under the current law, special needs trusts can only be established by a disabled individual’s legal guardian, parent, grandparent or a court, even if the beneficiary is mentally competent. Those who do not have a family member or guardian are forced to petition the court, which can lead to unnecessary legal expenses and delay. The Act is designed to streamline the process by which people with special needs can set up their own first-party special needs trusts.

“This legislation is a significant step for those individuals who require their own special needs trust to help pay for their long-term care,” said Michael Gilfix, a nationally known special needs attorney. “It removes the barriers that currently force an otherwise independent person with special needs to either rely on assistance from their family or spend a lot of time and money to have their trust approved by a court.”

Special needs trusts can be essential for disabled individuals who require long-term services. To qualify for government programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income, the person cannot have assets totaling $2,000 or more at any given time. A special needs trust is tailored to manage assets for a person with special needs without compromising on eligibility for government benefits. Assets placed in a special needs trust remain available for the entire lifetime of the disabled individual.

“The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act allows able-minded individuals to make their own decisions with their best interests in mind. The assets in the trust are then available to pay for the individual’s needs,” said Gilfix.