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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Special Needs Trust Fairness Act Corrects an Error in the Law

By Michael T. Lahti

On December 14, 2016, President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act. The package included the long-awaited Special Needs Trust Fairness Act, which corrects an error in the law that presumes that all persons with disabilities lack the mental capacity to handle their own affairs.  Reps. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) along with Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) worked diligently to ensure this common sense fix became law.

“D-4-A” Special Needs Trusts were first recognized by Congress in 1993. Such trusts help ensure that individuals with disabilities can use what savings they have to provide for their supplemental needs while still qualifying for long-term services and supports from means-tested programs like Medicaid without living in utter destitution.  An oversight in the 1993 trust law meant that individuals who did not have a parent, grandparent, or legal guardian had to petition a local court for the creation of their trust. This in turn led to unnecessary legal fees, time wasted, and administrative confusion. The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act corrects this error by allowing individuals with capacity to set up their own trust.


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