“Help! I’m the Trustee for a Special Needs Trust… but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do!”
More often than we’d like, our team receives frantic calls from special needs siblings whose parents have recently passed away.
“Help! I’m the trustee for my sibling’s Special Needs Trust… but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do!” is a common opening sentence. Which is not surprising given the many duties and responsibilities of being a trustee.
A special needs trust trustee is responsible for making distributions from the trust, investing the trust property, bookkeeping, tax reporting, and communicating (Citation: specialneedsanswers.com).
Additionally, a trustee’s duties include carrying out the terms of the trust agreement, loyalty to the beneficiary, acting and investing prudently, not delegating Trustee responsibility, and keeping the beneficiary reasonably informed of the trust administration (Citation: tn-elderlaw.com).
More specifically, a trustee must:
- Avoid any activity that conflicts with the purpose of the trust—which is to enhance the quality of life of the beneficiary.
- Spend money to enhance the beneficiary’s life, while making the trust funds last as long as possible.
- Respond to the beneficiary’s personal needs for goods and services that aren’t covered by SSI or Medicaid.
- Keep up with SSI and Medicaid income and resource rules so that the trustee’s spending doesn’t affect the beneficiary’s eligibility for SSI and Medicaid.
- Invest and manage trust property following the terms of the trust and state law, in the beneficiary’s best interests.
- Keep the beneficiary and other interested persons up to date on trust activity.
- Work together with the beneficiary’s guardian or conservator, if the court has appointed one.
- Keep accurate records, prepare reports that the SSI and Medicaid programs require, and file necessary federal and state tax returns.
- Go to court, if necessary and financially reasonable, to uphold the trust and require the SSI and Medicaid programs to comply with applicable law.
- Terminate the trust, if circumstances warrant doing so.
- Manage or distribute trust property after the beneficiary dies or the trust is terminated.
Are you the trustee of a special needs trust?
Are you feeling overwhelmed by the long list of duties and responsibilities that go along with your role?
We can help. Schedule a call with our team today.
Goals for our call:
- Learn about you and your loved one with special needs
- Answer your current questions about being a trustee
- Help you find solutions that could save you time, confusion, and frustration