Special Needs Law Month


Defining what Special Needs Trusts are and why they are so important.

By Jeanne St. Onge

What is National Special Needs Law Month

Each October, attorneys throughout the country celebrate National Special Needs Law Month by helping to educate those with special needs, their families, and their caregivers, about their legal needs. This effort, established by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), gives attorneys the opportunity to connect with members of their community and provide important resources.

What exactly is Special Needs Planning?

Special needs planning, simply put, is very similar to that of estate planning, but with a focus on an individual with a disability. The goal of special needs planning is to ensure that the beneficiary’s unique medical and financial needs will be taken care of in your absence.

Special needs planning can involve:

Special Needs TrustsCare managementAdvocacy to preserve education or civil rightsPublic benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and MedicaidOther important issues

What is a TRUST?

A TRUST is a relationship between three parties:

  1. DONOR/GRANTOR who establishes the TRUST
  2. TRUSTEE who holds & administers the TRUST, based on the DONOR’S/GRANTOR’S wishes
  3. BENEFICIARY/BENEFICIARIES who receive benefit from the funds of the TRUST

Why have a Special Needs TRUST (SNT)?

TRUSTS are established to provide legal protection for the DONOR/GRANTOR’S assets, to make sure those assets are distributed according to the wishes of the DONOR/GRANTOR . Special Needs TRUSTS allow for parents, other families members, and interested parties to contribute funds for the benefit of the BENEFICIARY, while also allowing the beneficiary to still receive benefits such as Medicaid and Security Supplemental Income (SSI).

Three types of Special Needs TRUSTS

  1. First Party TRUST: holds assets that were assets of a person with a disability.
  2. Third-Party TRUST: holds assets belonging to an individual, other than the person with a disability, who want to help the person with a disability.
  3. Pooled Trust: holds assets that were contributed by many different individuals with disabilities, to be used for their benefit.

How much should be put in the TRUST?

There is no minimum amount required to fund a special needs TRUST. However, how much to put into the TRUST depends on a variety of factors, including the nature of the disability and the level of care required. Trusts can also be funded by family assets, inheritances, or even life insurance policies that pay when one or both parents pass away.

How do I decide what is best for my family?

Every Special Needs TRUST situation is unique, therefore the only way to determine which special needs TRUST is right for your family is to meet with a qualified attorney to discuss your needs.

Click the DOWNLOAD button below to download a copy of our ‘Understanding Special Needs Trusts’ handout



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Bassett Murray Law Group, PLLC
2045 Hogback Road
​Ann Arbor, MI ​48105
Phone: 734-930-9200
Fax: 734-930-9942

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    Bassett Murray Law Group, PLLC
    2045 Hogback Road
    ​Ann Arbor, MI ​48105
    Phone: 734-930-9200
    Fax: 734-930-9942