In past blog posts, we discussed the important duties individuals have when chosen to be a trustee. Trustees of a special needs trust (SNT) share these same responsibilities, but they also have additional duties to meet the needs of the beneficiary of an SNT.
For example, the trustee of an SNT must ensure that their loved one – the beneficiary of the SNT – remains eligible to receive the public benefits they depend on. After all, the purpose of the SNT is to supplement these benefits, not replace them.
So, what steps can trustees take to protect their loved one’s eligibility for benefits?
Public benefits have specific requirements individuals must meet
Individuals with special needs can obtain essential public benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid, to support their needs. However, these are also two complex systems.
For instance, the Social Security Administration requires individuals to meet certain criteria to qualify for SSI benefits. One of the factors is that individuals earn a limited income. If beneficiaries were to receive or use assets from an SNT directly, it might disqualify them from getting the benefits they need.
That is why trustees are responsible for handling the funds from the trust on behalf and for the benefit of the beneficiary.
Trustees must understand SSI and Medicaid regulations
It is also up to the trustee to ensure the beneficiary of an SNT continually meets the other criteria of these benefit programs, so they continue to receive benefits. Therefore, the trustee must:
- Learn the regulations of both these systems;
- Understand how these programs work; and
- Distribute the assets of the trust accordingly.
Trustees will have to report to both Social Security and Medicaid about their loved one’s income and eligibility. Therefore, they must be well-versed in how these systems work.
SNTs often have instructions to protect the beneficiary’s eligibility. And trustees can also obtain assistance from an experienced California attorney to protect the rights of the beneficiary.