Special needs trusts are a unique estate planning tool that allow certain individuals to receive financial help while still qualifying for public benefits. If you have a friend or relative who has a disability, someone may have asked you to serve as the special needs trustee.
In general terms, the special needs trustee is the person who oversees the trust. While these trustees are sometimes professionals, like attorneys or accountants, they also can be laypeople. Before you agree to be a special needs trustee, though, you must know exactly what the job entails.
According to AARP, there is a host of managerial duties that come with being a special needs trustee. Typically, trustees take care of basic accounting, reporting, taxpaying and investing. You do not need to have specialized knowledge in any of these areas, however, as it is possible to outsource the more technical aspects of trust management.
Those who receive public benefits must comply with strict program rules. Indeed, using funds from the trust on impermissible expenses can make a person ineligible for further government assistance. As a special needs trustee, you must be familiar with public benefits to know which disbursement requests to approve and which ones to reject.
As a special needs trustee, you are in a good position to know what services the beneficiary needs, so you may have to find doctors, social workers or others who can help the beneficiary. Ultimately, though, once you understand the ins and outs of serving as a special needs trustee, you may find the role to be both fulfilling and rewarding.