Creating a special needs trust can bring many California parents peace of mind. They know that their child will receive the supplemental care they need when they are gone.
However, it is important for parents to choose the right trustee to ensure that the trust actually provides for the beneficiary as they want it to. With any trust, it is critical to choose the trustee carefully. But there are a few questions parents should ask themselves when choosing the trustee for a special needs trust:
Does this person know the individual and their needs?
The trustee will handle money on behalf of an individual with special needs almost daily. So, it is often helpful if the trustee:
- Knows the individual personally
- Understands their specific needs
- Understands how to meet those needs financially
Families can choose other family members or friends who know the individual as the trustee. However, it is also possible to select a professional trustee, such as a trusted attorney or accountant.
Will this person have the time to do this job?
Life is busy—we all know that. And acting as a trustee of a special needs trust often requires many responsibilities, including:
- Paying bills on behalf of the individual
- Helping the individual obtain housing, benefits and services
- Being the middle-man for the individual and various programs
The responsibilities of a trustee can be a significant time commitment. So, it is essential to determine that a potential trustee has the time and capabilities to serve as an effective trustee.
Do they know how to manage money?
Of course, a trustee must know how to manage money. They will spend and invest money on behalf of the individual with disabilities. And they must also keep detailed records of any assets they spend from the trust while following the spending rules of the special needs trust.
Choosing a trustee who can manage their own assets and money properly is beneficial.
Do they have an understanding of Medicaid and SSI?
Since special needs trusts provide for individuals while also ensuring they qualify for benefits from programs like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a good trustee should also have basic knowledge of how these benefit programs work.
This knowledge ensures the trustee understands how to manage the trust’s assets without putting the individual’s support, benefits and future in jeopardy.