3 characteristics of an effective special needs trustee

Using your estate plan to provide for a child who has a disability or special needs is a good way to cement your legacy. After all, even if your loved one qualifies for means-tested government assistance, the monthly funds he or she receives are likely to be meager.

By setting up a special needs trust, you preserve your child’s eligibility for certain public benefits while giving him or her access to financial resources to use on supplemental expenses. When forming your trust, you must choose a trustee to oversee it. Effective trustees typically share three characteristics.

1. Competence

Your special needs trustee plays an active role in recordkeeping, investing and reporting. Accordingly, you want your trustee to have basic knowledge of the law and the rules of the trust. Your trustee should also have familiarity with government programs, as you do not want him or her to approve a disbursement that violates program rules.

2. Compassion

When you are no longer alive, your child may have difficulty accessing the services he or she needs to thrive. By choosing a compassionate trustee, you continue to look out for your loved one’s interests. That is, if the trustee identities gaps in care or other needs, he or she can connect your child with the appropriate resources.

3. Grit

Trustees are often in the unenviable position of having to make someone unhappy. Your trustee, for example, may have to deny a disbursement your child requests. Therefore, your trustee should have enough grit to do what is right for the trust and the beneficiary.

Because not everyone has the qualities necessary to be an effective special needs trustee, you may need to interview several candidates. Ultimately, though, any effort you put into choosing the correct trustee for your special needs trust is likely to benefit both you and your child.

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Kevin Tharpe

With 25 years of experience, Kevin understands how estate planning, special needs planning, and government benefits programs work together. This is a crucial element of a thorough plan. He explains your eligibility for benefits programs and ensures that you do not make costly mistakes that may disqualify you or deplete your assets.

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