Special Needs Trust Fairness Act Opens Doors for Disabled Adults
PUBLISHED BY: LFN Primary
San Francisco, CA (Law Firm Newswire) May 29, 2017 – Former President Barack Obama signed the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act (SNTFA) into law as part of the 21st Century Cures Act.
The act, signed on December 13, 2016, corrects an oversight in the law that assumes all individuals with disabilities are mentally incapable of managing their own affairs. Mentally competent, disabled adults can now create special needs trusts for their own use. The legislation was passed largely due to the efforts of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and Special Needs Alliance (SNA).
“We are particularly proud of NAELA’s legislative advocacy efforts,” said Michael Gilfix. Gilfix is both a co-founder and a Fellow of NAELA.
Previously, such trusts had to be created by the disabled individual’s legal guardian, parent, grandparent or by petitioning the court. The necessity for family or court involvement led to time-consuming and costly delays.
“Prior to the law’s enactment, individuals with disabilities who did not have a living relative were unable to create their own special needs trust without undergoing lengthy court proceedings,” said Gilfix. “The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act provides a measure of independence by empowering capable adults with disabilities to make their own decisions without being forced to rely on others.”
The act recognizes that some people with physical disabilities do possess the requisite mental capacity to handle their own finances and other needs. In addition, they may not require guardians or have the family members required to establish a special needs trust.
Specials needs trusts are a key planning tool for disabled individuals who collect benefits from Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid and other means tested programs. While government benefits pay for day-to-day living and medical costs, assets placed in a trust can be used to pay for other essential items and services.
“With the assets in a special needs trust, disabled individuals are able to enjoy an improved quality of life without being disqualified from receiving financial assistance from the government,” said Gilfix. “As setting up a special needs trust involves many considerations, it is necessary to seek the guidance of a knowledgeable special needs planning attorney.”
Individuals with special needs children are encouraged to visit the Gilfix website to learn more and to obtain Gilfix’s consumer friendly book, “Special Needs Trust Creation and Management Guide.”