First-Party Special Needs Trusts
First-party SNTs are most often used when the person with a disability inherits money or property outright, or receives a court settlement. These SNTs also are useful when a person without a prior disability owns assets in his or her name, later becomes disabled, and thereafter needs to qualify for public benefits that have an income or asset limitation. These SNTs are creatures of federal law, specifically (i) individual first-party SNTs are authorized under 42 U.S.C. § 1396p(d)(4)(A), and (ii) pooled first-party SNTs are authorized under 42 U.S.C. § 1396p(d)(4)(C). First-party SNTs also are commonly called self-settled SNTs, Medicaid payback trusts, OBRA ’93 trusts, and d4A or d4C trusts.
Until the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act became law late in 2016, the only persons or entities authorized to “establish” (create) an individual first-party SNT were the SNT beneficiary’s parent, grandparent, legal guardian, or a court. Since December 13, 2016, federal law also authorizes a mentally and legally competent SNT beneficiary to establish an individual first-party SNT. A first-party SNT is funded with property that belongs to the beneficiary, or to which the beneficiary is or becomes legally entitled. Property in a first-party SNT can only be used for the “sole benefit” of that beneficiary. Individual first-party SNTs may be created (and funded) only for individuals who meet the government’s definition of “disabled” and are under sixty-five years of age when the SNT is established (and funded).
While a pooled first-party SNT (described below) can be established by individuals over sixty-five years of age in many states, a significant number of states do not allow a person over age sixty-five to establish or transfer property to a pooled first-party SNT without penalty. Pooled first-party SNTs can be established by the beneficiary, the beneficiary’s parent, grandparent, or guardian, or a court. If the SNT beneficiary is not mentally and legally competent, then court approval must be obtained to fund the SNT with the beneficiary’s property.
If you are considering setting up a special needs trust for a disabled loved one, contact trusts and estates attorney Jose Lorenzo by calling (305) 999-5411, completing our online contact form or visiting one of our offices in Coral Gables and Ft. Lauderdale. We serve clients throughout the entire state of Florida.