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by Thomas D. Begley, Jr., CELA

A Third Party Special Needs Trust is usually used in a Medicaid context not for the benefit of the grantor of the trust, but for the beneficiary. The grantor of the trust is typically a parent, but could be grandparent, sibling, other relative or friend. The grantor uses the grantor’s assets to fund the trust. The assets of the beneficiary cannot be used to fund a Third Party Special Needs Trust. In order for the trust to be a Special Needs Trust, the beneficiary must be disabled. Disability is usually determined by the fact that the beneficiary has received a Determination of Disability from the Social Security Administration and is receiving either Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) or Social Security Disability Income (“SSDI”). The trust is designed so that the assets are not counted for SSI or Medicaid eligibility purposes. The beneficiary is then able to take advantage of the continuation of public benefits including usually SSI and Medicaid, as well as use the assets in the trust to enrich the beneficiary’s life. The trustee is given complete discretion with respect to distributions, and special needs language is used in designing the trust. Provisions made for distributions to the beneficiary during the beneficiary’s lifetime and distribution of any remaining principal and accrued income upon the death of the beneficiary.

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