There are two financial products in existence today that are designed to provide specific benefits for people with disabilities. One is the ABLE Account, which is designed for saving and spending on disability-related expenses. The other is a special needs trust, which is designed to allow people to have and use financial assets (money) for their benefit and to enable access to means-tested benefits. These two categories of products accomplish different objectives, so it may be helpful to consider both.
Special needs trusts are created with a legal document, and at some point, funding. One way to establish a special needs trust is to work with an attorney to create an individual trust designed specifically for one person. Individual trusts must be set up at a bank or trust company and must have a person designated as trustee.
The other option is a Pooled Special Needs Trust (PSNT). A pooled special needs trust works much like a company or nonprofit retirement savings plan. Each person has their own account, and everyone’s money is invested together. Pooled special needs trusts can only be administered by nonprofit organizations. The nonprofit organization operates as the trustee for each person in the trust, and depending on what services they offer, they can provide continuous trusteeship over long periods of time. While setup fees and account minimums for PSNTs vary, they are reasonable and accessible for many people.
Today there are more than one hundred (100) Pooled Special Needs Trust administrators across the country to choose from. Several offer services nationally while others operate in the state or region in which they are located.