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Choosing a Trustee for Your Special Needs Trust

For families with a loved one with disabilities, a special needs trust can provide peace of mind. For people with a developmental disability, a special needs trust may enhance their life. A special needs trust maximizes the resources available. While it preserves eligibility for programs like Medicaid and Supplementary Security Income, it also can be used to pay for quality-of-life items. 

Qualifying for Special Needs Trust

Those most likely to qualify for a special needs trust are those dependent on SSI and Medicaid throughout their lives due to a severe or permanent disability. Not everyone with a disability meets the SSI, Medicaid, or a special needs trust criteria. Sometimes, a person deemed to have a disability can still earn a living, and therefore does not need to partake in these services. 

Appointing a Trustee

If a family member requires a special needs trust, a trustee will need to be appointed. And with that role come certain responsibilities and duties. It is important to choose someone reliable who wants to take on the role and is trustworthy. 

Finding someone who is willing to serve in the role is vital. Whoever takes it on is essentially responsible for a loved one and should always put the loved one’s needs first. It is also a big task to take on, and prospective trustees should understand the work involved with taking the duties on. The duties should be fully explained, and communication is key. Let them know what will be expected and when. Make sure anyone being considered to be a trustee knows the extent of what they’re getting into. Putting the duties of a trustee in writing may be a good idea. 

It is also important to make sure a prospective trustee doesn’t have any conflicts of interest in taking on the role. The special needs trust is being set up for the benefit of the disabled person and not the benefit of the trustee. Any decisions on spending or investing within the trust must be made with the person’s benefit in mind. An honorable person will make the right decisions and make sure spending or investments don’t benefit them, even if they are named a beneficiary of the trust when the special needs person passes on. Make sure it won’t be an issue. 

Having a relationship with the beneficiary of the trust is important, as well. A trustee should be familiar with the person and know what their needs are. They should also have an idea of how to achieve the person’s goals and how to meet their needs. Again, communication is key in developing a relationship with the beneficiary and establishing trust. The trustee should also be of an age where they’re expected to live as long as the beneficiary and as long as the trust will be in place. 

A trustee should also be comfortable with governmental agencies and working to get answers from these agencies when needed. They should be familiar with the rules and regulations around SSI and Medicaid and know how to navigate sometimes confusing systems to get answers. A working knowledge of how financial records work is important. A lot of records need to be kept for tax and other purposes, and it helps if the trustee is comfortable with that kind of financial record-keeping. 

There are rules to follow when creating a special needs trust, and the advice of an experienced asset protection and special needs planning lawyer can help. The goal of a special needs trust is to protect your loved ones and provide for them the best life possible. In that regard, every possible step should be taken to ensure the best outcome possible. A special needs trust can protect your family member from predators and help them manage larger amounts of money and assets.

Contact an Asset Protection Lawyer

If you have any questions regarding trusts, it’s best to discuss it with an experienced special needs planning lawyer. The Mattar Firm can help. Call 239-222-2222 today.


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