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Why create a special needs trust?

Some families in Colorado may be interested in establishing a special needs trust for their children's benefit. In some situations, a special needs trust can be a preferable alternative to other forms of trusts because it can allow someone to transfer savings to their child without compromising their ability to receive government benefits in the future. Special needs trusts can be created to take effect both during a parent's lifetime and after their death, and are also known as supplemental care trusts.

In general, a special needs trust is intended to supplement services that the government already provides, and as such, it may not be used to assist in matters such as food, paying utilities, housing and more. It can, however, provide financial relief for rehabilitation costs, transportation, some forms of education and medical costs not covered by government assistance.

In cases where a special needs trust functions while a parent is alive, the appointed trustee ensures that money is transferred to the child in such a way as to maintain his or her eligibility for government benefits. If the trust operates posthumously, funds are transferred directly from the parent's estate and the trustee is charged with facilitating its distribution. The cost of setting up a special needs trust can vary depending on the amount the trust is intended to manage and the resulting complexity of doing so.

Since the rules governing how special needs trusts are established and maintained can be complex, it may be beneficial for someone considering opening one to consult the matter with an attorney who has experience in estate and trust planning. The attorney can assist in defining the responsibilities and limitations of the appointed trustee and help ensure the trust is created and operated in accordance with applicable law.

Source: PACER.org, "The Special Needs Trust", October 19, 2014

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