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SPECIAL NEEDS TRUSTS

A TOOL FOR HELPING PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

Nancy P. Gibson Attorney at Law 700 SW Higgins Missoula MT 59803

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    • I.

      INTRODUCTION

Special Needs Trusts, also called Supplemental Needs Trusts, are trusts designed to provide assets for the care and comfort of beneficiaries who are disabled without jeopardizing their access to programs, funds and/or medical benefits that may be available to them. The cost of care for such persons can be prohibitive and is simply out of reach for most people to afford privately. Because many government-funded programs in the United States today provide substantial benefits, and in many cases are the only available programs for persons with disabilities, access to these services is critical. However, the requirements for qualifying for these benefits often thwart the efforts of families to provide support to their loved ones with disabilities.

To qualify for government benefits, an individual must meet the definition of “disabled.” A person who is disabled, according to the Social Security Administration, is a person who is over the age of 65, blind or unable to do any substantial gainful activity due to physical or mental impairments that will result in death or will continue for not less than one year. 42 U.S.C. ~ 423(d) (1) (A). “Substantial gainful activity” is the ability to do work that produces earnings. “Physical or mental impairments” are disabilities that appear on the Social Security Administration Listing of Impairments.

Once a disability is established, the type of benefit available will depend on additional

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