How Special Needs Trusts (SNTs) Can Help Victims of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)January 30, 2018
Special needs trusts are legal devices that can hold or possess certain assets on behalf of disabled individuals.
Also referred to as supplemental needs trusts, SNTs can be important to protecting assets while preserving eligibility for certain needs-based government benefits.
For those who have suffered a TBI and are pursuing a brain injury claim, a special needs trust can hold the financial recovery from the case while assuring that an impaired loved one still qualifies for benefits like Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
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How Do Special Needs Trusts Work?
SNTs are established via a trust document that:
- Names the grantor or settlor (the person who set up the trust)
- Names the trustee(s) (the person or parties responsible for managing the trust), as well as successor trustees
- Names the beneficiary or beneficiaries (the disabled individual(s) who will receive the assets of the trust)
- Details the terms of the trust (how the assets are to be handled and paid out).
Commonly, the grantor of a special needs trust is also named as the trustee. Once the trust document has been signed and notarized, the trust takes effect.
After a supplemental needs trust is established, assets are transferred to the trust, effectively making the trust the legal owner of those assets.
How Can a Special Needs Trust Help a TBI Victim?
Any compensation a traumatic brain injury victim obtains from a lawsuit can be transferred into a special needs trust, thereby preserving the victim’s eligibility for government benefits. This is due to the fact that the assets held by the trust are not considered to be the beneficiary’s, helping the beneficiary meet and prove financial need.
Additionally, SNTs can:
- Hold assets other than financial recoveries from brain injury claims – Families can set up an SNT independent or in absence of a lawsuit. For instance, a spouse can set up a special needs trust, funding it with stocks or savings, for his partner by way of a will as part of the estate planning process.
- Be tailored to fit the beneficiary’s needs and the family’s wishes – For example, the terms of the trust can include provisions that detail how and when assets are to be paid out and what these assets cannot be used for.
This can be an effective way to ensure that a disabled loved one has:
- Access to more financial support than government benefits provide
- The means to pay for all necessary care and treatments while maintaining a certain quality of life.
How Can the Assets in Supplemental Needs Trusts Be Used?
As long as the assets are not used for illegal purposes or for something that violates the terms of the trust, they can be used for nearly any purpose that improves the beneficiary’s qualify of life. This can include (and is not restricted to) using an SNT’s assets for:
- Personal care that is not covered by government benefits
- Travel and other experiences
- Utilities, internet and other services
- Furniture, clothing and other property-related needs.
Please be aware that, while these assets can be used to cover food and housing expenses, SSI benefits may be reduced for doing so. Consequently, it’s important to work with an experienced lawyer who can help you navigate these complexities and avoid potentially costly mistakes.
Can Special Needs Trusts Be Terminated?
Yes. SNTs can be terminated when they are no longer needed, such as when:
- The beneficiary passes away.
- The beneficiary no longer needs or is no longer eligible for government benefits.
- There are no more assets held by the trust.
Set Your Claim & Recovery Up for Success: Contact a Houston Brain Injury Lawyer at the Amaro Law Firm
If you or a loved one has sustained a TBI, it is time to contact a Houston brain injury lawyer at the Amaro Law Firm for experienced help pursuing compensation and justice.
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