Special Needs Trust Attorney

We’ve all heard the saying, “Time waits for no one.” This is especially true for families with special needs members. Your loved one’s future can seem uncertain and, often, complicated. Government benefits offer some help, but they hardly cover everything. From medical expenses to quality-of-life enhancements, there’s much to consider.


So what can you do to ensure your loved one is cared for, even when you’re no longer around to do it yourself? The answer is estate planning and setting up a Special Needs Trust. By planning today, you secure a brighter, more stable future for your loved one, giving you the peace of mind that every caregiver deserves.


In this guide, we’ll dive into what a Special Needs Trust is, how it works, and why consulting a special needs trust attorney like William C. Roof could be a key decision for your family’s future.

lawyer with client

What Is a Special Needs Trust, and When Is It Needed?

A Special Needs Trust is established for individuals with disabilities or specific needs, aiming to provide financial support while maintaining their eligibility for government benefits. The assets in this trust are not counted when qualifying for public assistance.


Funds from the trust are often used for medical expenses, caretaker payments, and transportation costs, ensuring financial security and a safe, healthy living environment for the beneficiaries

Scenarios That Require Setting Up a Special Needs Trust

Setting up a Special Needs Trust (SNT) is often pursued under specific scenarios to ensure the financial well-being and continued eligibility for government assistance of individuals with disabilities.

Here are some circumstances in which establishing a Special Needs Trust might be necessary:


  • Inheritance or monetary gifts. If an individual with disabilities inherits money or receives a monetary gift, an SNT can be set up to manage these funds without jeopardizing their eligibility for means-tested government benefits like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)​​.

  • Personal injury awards. Individuals who have received compensation from personal injury awards or settlements can place these funds into an SNT to preserve their eligibility for government benefits while having a mechanism to pay for additional needs.

  • Asset management. Assets of the beneficiary, including lifetime earnings, can be placed into an SNT, categorized as a first-party SNT, to ensure they are appropriately managed without affecting the beneficiary’s government benefit eligibility​.

    • Estate planning. Families or individuals can use SNTs as a tool for estate planning to provide financial support for a loved one with a disability, ensuring they continue to receive essential needs-based government benefits while also having additional financial resources for other needs​.


    • Government benefit eligibility. In some instances, setting up an SNT is a strategic move to ensure that the individual with disabilities remains eligible for government benefits, which might be based on financial need.


  • Independence promotion. The 21st Century Cures Act permits individuals with disabilities to set up special needs trusts on their own behalf, promoting their independence rather than having to rely on a third party to do so.

Types of Special Needs Trusts

There are several types of Special Needs Trusts in Florida, catering to different circumstances and needs. Here’s a detailed explanation of the types of Special Needs Trusts :

1. First-Party Special Needs Trusts

Also known as self-settled trusts, first-party Special Needs Trusts are established with the disabled person’s assets, often arising from inheritances, lawsuits, or insurance settlements.

They are designed to preserve the individual’s eligibility for public benefits, despite their own assets.

There are three primary types of first-party SNTs:

  • D(4)(a) trusts. Set up by someone under 65 years old, usually when a disabled individual gets a big amount from an injury claim or inherits money.
  • Pooled trusts. Utilized to help disabled and elderly individuals protect their assets while going on Medicaid.
  • Qualified income trusts (QITs). Used when an individual applying for long-term care Medicaid has income that goes beyond the monthly allowance, guaranteeing Medicaid will handle the long-term care bills.

2. Third-Party Special Needs Trusts

These trusts are established by a third party, often parents or grandparents, for the benefit of a disabled individual.

They can hold any asset imaginable belonging to the individual or anyone else who wants to help the individual. They can also be used for various life-enhancing expenses without compromising the individual’s eligibility for public benefits.

Examples include basic third-party SNT and ABLE Accounts, which are tax-advantaged savings accounts for the benefit of individuals with disabilities

Advantages of Establishing a Special Needs Trust Early

Setting up a Special Needs Trust early can be greatly beneficial for lots of reasons, especially if you want to secure the financial future of a loved one with disabilities.


Here are the key advantages:

Preservation of Government Benefits

SNTs help to preserve the beneficiary’s eligibility for need-based government benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

An SNT is structured so that the assets held within the trust are not counted toward the eligibility criteria for these government benefits.

Supplemental Support

SNTs can cover expenses that are not covered by government benefits, improving the beneficiary’s quality of life.

This includes costs for personal grooming, clothing, electronic equipment, musical instruments, companionship, housekeeping, cooking assistance, medical insurance, and some medical services, therapies, and equipment.

Asset Protection

The assets placed in an SNT are protected, and the trust can be structured to ensure that the funds are used only for the benefit of the disabled individual.

The Responsibilities of a Special Needs Trust Trustee

Here are the responsibilities of a Special Needs Trust trustee in Florida:

  • Enhancing the beneficiary’s life. Spend funds wisely to improve the beneficiary’s life, catering to personal needs not covered by Medicaid or SSI​​.

  • Legal compliance and financial management. Manage and invest trust property lawfully for the beneficiary’s benefit, ensuring compliance with Florida law to maintain benefit eligibility.

  • Communication. Regular communication with the beneficiary, their caregivers, and other involved parties is essential.

  • Financial reporting and record-keeping. File federal and state tax returns and ensure proper tax reporting. And maintain detailed records and assemble necessary documents for SSI and Medicaid programs​.

  • Coordination. If the court has appointed a guardian, the trustee should cooperate and work closely with this individual.

  • Distribution of trust property. Distribute trust property if the beneficiary passes away or if the trust is terminated.

When Does a Special Needs Trust End?

Special Needs Trusts often come to an end due to several circumstances:

  • Depletion of funds. One common scenario is when the trust funds are depleted to the extent that the costs of administering the trust outweigh the benefits to the beneficiary.

  • Change in beneficiary’s disability status. If the beneficiary no longer qualifies as disabled, the trust may be terminated.

  • Death of the beneficiary. The trust typically ends upon the beneficiary’s death. During this termination, certain financial obligations must be met such as settling final expenses, taxes, and Medicaid liens before any distributions are made to the remaining beneficiaries.

Why Work with a Florida Special Needs Trust Attorney?

The right SNT lawyer can provide a ton of benefits. Here are a few key benefits of speaking with an attorney:

Attorney Advice on Setting Up the Trust

An estate planning attorney can tailor the trust to your loved one’s specific needs and future projections.

They can guide you on the most suitable type of SNT — either a first-party or third-party trust, based on who funds the assets and other specifications.

They can help you avoid common pitfalls that may jeopardize the trust’s objectives or the beneficiary’s eligibility for public benefits.

Help with Complicated Legal Paperwork

Special Needs Trusts require precise legal language to be effective and compliant with both Florida and federal laws.

An attorney like William C. Roof can ensure that all legal documents are correctly drafted, signed, and witnessed, ensuring the trust’s validity and effectiveness.

Ensuring the Trust Meets All Legal Requirements

Attorneys are tasked with ensuring that the trust adheres to all legal standards, which is crucial for maintaining the beneficiary’s eligibility for public benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

They can also provide ongoing legal support, ensuring the trust remains compliant with any legal changes that may occur over time.

Special Needs Trust FAQs

Got questions about SNTs in Florida? Attorney William C. Roof has answers. See below for FAQs, or reach out for answers about your case.

What Is the Difference Between a Special Needs Trust and a Supplemental Needs Trust?

Both trusts seek to give financial help to people with disabilities, while making sure they still qualify for government aid. The main difference is where the money comes from. A Special Needs Trust uses the disabled person’s own money, like an inheritance or money from a personal injury case, while a Supplemental Needs Trust usually uses money from a family member.

What Is a Trust Protector?

A trust protector is someone or a group chosen to watch over the trust to make sure it’s being handled for the good of the beneficiary. They have the authority to make some changes to the trust and can change the trustee if needed. This role is really important in planning for special needs to keep the quality of life good for your loved one.

When Can a Special Needs Trust Be Funded?

A Special Needs Trust can be funded at any time but is often funded during estate planning or through a probate process. Funding can come from various sources, such as family members, life insurance, or the disabled individual’s own assets in the case of a first-party special needs trust.

How Much Money Should I Put in a Special Needs Trust?

The amount to put in a special needs trust depends on various factors, including the needs of the disabled person, costs of medical care, and other life-enhancing expenses. An estate planning attorney can help you determine the right amount.

Who Can Establish a Special Needs Trust?

A special needs trust can be established by a parent, grandparent, legal guardian, or by the disabled individual themselves if they are competent. It can also be set up by a court or an estate planning law practice.

Secure Your Loved One's Future with a Special Needs Trust

Caring for a family member with special needs is a significant responsibility. Your priority is to ensure their present and future well-being.

For guidance on navigating Florida’s legal landscape, reach out to Florida Special Needs Trust attorney William C. Roof. Contact us today.


The contents of this article are not comprehensive, they provide only a general overview of the subject matter discussed. This article does not establish a client-attorney relationship with the reader, and no legal decisions should be made based on the article’s contents. Because every legal matter arises under unique facts specific to the client, no legal decision should be made without consulting a licensed attorney.

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