Do You Need To Qualify For Government Benefits?

A Special Needs Trust Increases Your Eligibility

Without a special needs trust, you risk:

  • Losing Eligibility Of Your Benefits
  • Losing Control Of Your Assets
  • Making Your Child Pay For Care Out Of Pocket
  • Paying Too Much In Healthcare

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What Is a Special Needs Trust?

A special needs trust is a legal arrangement and a fiduciary relationship.

It allows a disabled person to receive income without reducing their eligibility qualifications.

The types of government assistance programs that provide disability benefits are:

  • Social Security
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid

A special needs trust is a great strategy for taking care of disabled loved ones.

Especially for those who want to help someone in need.

People with “special needs” that can qualify for an SNT include people with:

  • blindness
  • a disabled person
  • autism
  • developmental disabilities
  • Down syndrome
  • chronic mental illness
  • physical paralysis
  • congenital disabling (i.e., cerebral palsy or cystic fibrosis)

This is not an “all-encompassing” list.

Our estate planning law firm in Atlanta can guide you through this.

And without making that person risk losing their eligibility for government benefits.

Because these government benefits limit the assets and income a qualifying person can have.

Putting assets and income into a special needs trust keeps them from owning those.

So these programs won’t count it against their eligibility for public benefits.

Georgia Special Needs Trust Definition

A special needs trust preserves one’s ability to qualify for government assistance.

The special needs beneficiary does not own the assets in the special needs trust.

But they can receive distributions from the trust.

These “distributions” are in the form of helping pay for medical care assistance.

(We cover this more below.)

Because they don’t own assets, they maintain their eligibility for government programs.

These public benefit programs have asset and income limits.

A special needs trust in Georgia supplements these programs.

This gets accomplished by the trust paying for things like:

  • caregivers
  • sitters
  • companions
  • healthcare costs
  • medical care
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SNT Meaning

“SNT” stands for Special Needs Trust.

It’s a trust that holds assets for a disabled person.

It allows them to qualify for government assistance programs like:

  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Security Income

How a Special Needs Trust Works

A special needs trust in Georgia gets used for special needs planning.

The special needs individual does not own anything inside the trust.

They are the trust beneficiary.

This means that they can receive income and distributions from the SNT.

But the money has to get used for improving the quality of life with things like:

  • special medical equipment (i.e., wheelchairs or wheelchair-equipped vans)
  • health care costs not covered by insurance (i.e., dental and medical)
  • healthcare providers
  • medical care
  • therapy or rehabilitation
  • education
  • health care providers (i.e., caregivers and in-home nurses)
  • travel costs for self and one other person
  • entertainment costs (i.e., camp, movies, sports equipment)
  • electronics (i.e., computers and tablets)
  • legal advice and expenses
  • insurance premiums
  • life insurance

This way, the money from the SNT doesn’t get counted as income.

Which would disqualify the disabled individual from qualifying.

This money can only get used for supplemental needs to the public benefits programs.

A special needs trust in Georgia can pay for anything a parent would cover.

When it comes to helping a child beyond the basic needs of their life.

This list is not comprehensive.

An estate planning attorney can set up your special needs trust in Georgia.

And tailor it to your specific goals and special needs planning.

The family members creating the trust (grantor) appoint a trustee.

This trustee will manage the special needs trust in Georgia.

They will be responsible for distributing funds for the supplemental needs.

Let’s say the disabled individual places their own money and assets in an SNT.

These assets will be subject to Medicaid’s Payback Provision.

But assets provided by third parties, such as parents, are not.

(More on these two types of trusts below.)

This type of trust is sometimes also called a “supplemental needs trust.”

The Medicaid Payback Provision kicks in when the disabled beneficiary dies.

Every state that’s given them government benefits has the right to get reimbursed.

They can go after the assets in the special needs trust in Georgia.

And Medicaid gets reimbursed before the assets get passed to other beneficiaries.

But, that’s only if there are assets left in the trust.

If the trust assets get depleted, then they cannot claim any.

This is why it’s important to work with an estate planning attorney.

They can help set up different types of trusts in Georgia.

To make sure that the heirs get everything possible.

Georgia’s Special Needs Trust Rules

A trustee cannot give money directly to the special needs trust beneficiary.

This would increase their reportable income.

And that would disqualify them from getting government benefits.

The trustee can use the funds from the trust to pay for supplemental needs only.

Benefits of a Special Needs Trust

Creating a special needs trust in Georgia is beneficial for both parties.

(The grantor and the trust beneficiary.)

The beneficiary gets supplemental income for their healthcare.

And they don’t lose their eligibility for government benefits like:

And the grantor knows that their funds are getting used appropriately.

With special needs planning, the trust money only gets spent on what the grantor wants.

The money in the Georgia special needs trust gets used as it’s intended to get used.

It’s important that an estate planning attorney creates the SNT.

Disclaimer: the wording for the terms of the trust document has to be correct.

Otherwise, the validity of the trust document could get compromised.

And the directives and purpose of the trust document won’t be clear.

Let’s say that the trust document is not set up correctly.

Creditors and lawsuits could access the funds in the trust.

The beneficiary could lose eligibility for government benefits.

And, most importantly, a special needs trust is an irrevocable trust in Georgia.

Meaning, that once it’s created, it’s irreversible.

So, setting it up incorrectly is not something you can fix later.

Types of Special Needs Trusts In Georgia

Let’s go over the different types of special needs trusts in Georgia. 

Third-Party Special Needs Trusts

Let’s talk about third-party special needs trusts in Georgia.

The most important aspect of a third-party SNT is below.

They get used for special needs planning for a loved one who has needs.

The most common people to set up an SNT are parents of special needs children.

The parents are the grantors of the third-party special needs trust in Georgia.

Other common grantors are:

  • grandparents
  • siblings
  • aunts and uncles

A third-party special needs trust can get set up with a last will and testament in Georgia.

This trust can be a living trust that goes to the special needs child after the parent dies.

It would avoid probate in Georgia and go straight to the beneficiary.

Or, it can get created as a standalone SNT.

Special needs trusts created in a will in Georgia do not “get created” until the grantor dies.

This means the special needs beneficiary cannot receive help until the grantors die.

But a standalone third-party special needs trust “gets created” immediately.

And the beneficiary can receive financial help before the grantor’s death.

And a standalone special needs trust can receive gifts from family members.

Gifts can come from grandparents, parents, or other relatives of the disabled person.

They can add additional funds or property to the third-party trust.

This is the most important aspect of a third-party special needs trust in Georgia.

When the beneficiary dies, the remaining trust assets don’t go to Medicaid.

In this case, the beneficiary is the special needs individual.

This makes a third-party special needs trust a great estate planning tool.

The trust assets can get passed down beyond the special needs individual.

First-Party (Self Settled Special Needs Trust)

Next, first-party special needs trust in Georgia.

These are also called self-settled special needs trusts.

These get used when a disabled individual:

  • inherits money
  • inherits property
  • gets a court settlement

They are also useful for someone who owns assets and later becomes disabled.

And they are trying to increase their eligibility for government benefits.

To do so, they need to reduce their income or assets to meet the limitations.

The law passing these first-party SNTs was the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act in 2016.

Before this, an individual could not set up a special needs trust in Georgia for themselves.

A first-party SNT gets funded with the beneficiary’s property.

Property in a first-party SNT can only get used for the “sole benefit” of that beneficiary.

An individual can only create a first-party special needs trust in Georgia if they:

  • meet the government’s definition of “disabled”
  • are below the age of 65

A first-party special needs trust has to make Medicaid one of the final beneficiaries.

After the disabled individual dies, Medicaid has to get reimbursed from the trust.

Let’s say there are assets left in the first-party SNT.

Medicaid will get reimbursed the money they gave that person.

If there is any money left over after Medicaid gets paid, that can go to other beneficiaries.

If there is not enough to pay off Medicaid in full, Medicaid will empty the first-party SNT.

Let’s talk about court involvement in creating a first-party special needs trust.

There are two different scenarios:

  • the person comes into a windfall of money or assets
  • the person has accumulated their own money and assets over time

Let’s say the person has accumulated property and then becomes disabled.

This individual can create a first-party special needs trust without going to court.

But let’s say the individual hits a windfall of money or property.

This can be an inheritance, litigation, lottery, or whatever.

This person needs court approval to fund the special needs trust with this money.

Pooled Special Needs Trusts

Pooled special needs trusts can get created for:

  • first-party SNTs
  • third-party SNTs

Pooled special needs trusts get created and managed by a nonprofit association.

There are normally several beneficiaries of a pooled trust.

Here are some key features of pooled special needs trusts in Georgia:

  • Separate accounts get created for each beneficiary.
  • The nonprofit pools the assets of all the accounts together.
  • A master trust agreement manages the separate accounts.
  • Pooled trusts get created by family, guardians, or the courts.
  • The beneficiary must meet the government’s definition of “disabled.”

Let’s say the pooled trust’s beneficiary is not competent.

In this case, there has to be court approval.

The courts have to approve the pooled trust getting created with their property.

Even having a power of attorney or guardianship can’t avoid this.

Setting Up A Georgia Special Needs Trust

Here are the steps we can help you with in setting up an SNT in Georgia. 

1. Figure Out The Goals Of You And Your Loved Ones.

Figuring out the goals is the most important step of special needs planning.

It determines how funds get distributed to your loved one.

Things you need to figure out are:

  • how much money does the disabled beneficiary need
  • how long the funds should last
  • what quality of life are you helping them achieve
  • how often the disabled individual should get money
  • how much in distributions do you want them to receive
  • what supplemental needs should get met with the trust
  • who is the trustee (family members or the disabled beneficiary)
  • what happens with the remaining property after they die
  • whether they have control of the trust’s assets

2. Choose A Trustee For The SNT.

The trustee will manage, invest, and disburse funds for your loved ones.

Many people choose family members to be the trustee.

You should also choose contingent trustees.

That way, if something happens to the main trustee, there are backups.

Especially if the trustee is an older person, like the grandparents.

Once you choose a trustee, it’s time to sign the special needs trust.

You have to sign the SNT to transfer assets to the trust.

Another option you have is having the law firm be the trustee.

Our estate planning law firm in Atlanta can create the trust and be the trustee.

3. Create The Special Needs Trust.

You can set up a special needs trust in Georgia on your own.

But the wording is very important.

The wrong wording can create issues that disqualify the beneficiary from government programs.

If this gets messed up, they will lose their government benefits.

And Georgia special needs trusts are irrevocable.

This means that once they get created, they are permanent.

And they cannot get changed no matter what.

You should hire an estate planning attorney that specializes in creating trusts.

Once the special needs trust gets created, everyone needs to sign it.

And the estate planning attorney will notarize your trust.

Even a virtual law firm like ours can send a mobile notary to you.

That way, you don’t have to travel to an attorney’s office.

4. Fund The SNT.

Now, everyone has signed the Georgia special needs trust.

t’s time to fund the trust.

This means transferring property into the trust’s ownership.

You can fund the trust with things like:

  • cash accounts
  • investments (i.e., stocks, brokerage accounts, crypto, etc.)
  • life insurance policies
  • rental properties

Funding the trust seems obvious, but most people forget to.

They spend money creating the trust.

But they don’t put any assets into it.

5. Invest The Trust’s Funds.

Let’s talk about how to place your assets into a special needs trust.

You have to quit claim deed the property into the trust.

The deed needs to get notarized and filed in the county the property’s located.

Your estate planning lawyer can handle all this for you.

Get Your Special Needs Trust

If you want the best estate planning attorneys to create your SNT, fill out the form below.

We have the experience needed to ensure that your rights are protected.

This means that you don’t wrongfully lose your eligibility for government assistance.

This means you don’t get raked over the coals financially.

After you fill out the form below, we will set up your free consultation.

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We serve major locations all over Georgia.

This includes, but is not limited to, Marietta, Atlanta, Savannah, Augusta, Alpharetta, Dekalb County, etc.

We offer elder law, estate planning, trust creations, wills, probate, power of attorneys, etc.

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