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Special Needs Trusts (SNT), also called Supplemental Needs Trusts, benefit children or other family members with a disability that requires extended-term care or that prevents them from being able to support themselves.  A SNT is an irrevocable trust designed to supplement, rather than replace, government assistance.


A properly designed SNT preserves your loved one's access to government benefits that cover health care and other basic needs.  Medicaid and supplemental security income pay for basic medical care, food, clothing and shelter.  However, to qualify for these benefits, a person's resources of "countable assets" must be limited and generally every asset is countable, with just a few exceptions.  Florida also has an income cap, which may restrict benefits to certain individuals whose income exceeds the cap unless they are deemed medically needy.


Therefore, the SNT must be structured with certain limitations to preserve eligibility for government benefits.  For example, the beneficiary cannot have access to the funds and the trust cannot provide for the beneficiary's basic support, such as medical care, food, clothing or shelter.  Furthermore, the SNT must distribute funds directly to the third parties that provide goods or services to the beneficiary on his or her behalf.  However, the SNT can be used to pay for virtually anything that government benefits do not cover.  As a result, the SNT can pay for unreimbursed medical expenses, transportation, insurance, computers, as well as quality of life needs, such as travel, entertainment, recreation and hobbies.


After creating a SNT for your loved one, it is wise to discuss your intentions with your family.  To ensure the terms of the SNT are not broken, notify family members and friends that if they wish to make gifts or donations, such money should be made directly to the SNT and not to your loved one with special needs.


By creating and funding a SNT, you can provide for your peace of mind, ensure that your wishes are acted on and help provide for your loved ones when you are no longer here.