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Special Needs Trusts for Persons with Disabilities in Nevada

  • Published: 2014-01-26 : Greene, Roberts & Rasmussen, PLLC (
  • Synopsis: Article looks at the law that allows families to set up special needs trusts or supplemental needs trusts (SNTs) in the U.S. state of Nevada

Main Document

Quote: "The SNT is a legal vehicle for holding assets in trust for an individual with disabilities to be managed by a trustee for the benefit of that person."

All kinds of people and families experience disability. Having a family member with a severely disabling condition can happen in a family with any level of wealth, rural or urban, large or small, religious or not, and of any ethnicity. But one thing almost all family members with loved ones with disabilities have in common is the desire to contribute to the care of their relatives and plan for their future well beings.

Disability in Nevada

The U.S. Census Bureau's 2009 American Community Survey showed that 11.3 percent of Nevada residents have some type of disability, according to the Center for Personal Assistance Services. That means more than one-tenth of the state population has disabilities, and that many Nevadans face complex, difficult questions about how to ensure quality, long-term services and care for their loved ones with disabilities.

The role of public benefits

Few families have enough wealth to independently provide the medical, residential, vocational, therapeutic and other significant services that disabling conditions can require. Thankfully, federal and state public benefit programs provide limited safety nets to many persons with disabilities, usually providing residential, medical and other services.

Financial eligibility

Some of these programs are means tested, meaning that an otherwise eligible applicant with disabilities must also have very limited financial means to qualify for benefits. Most programs do not allow beneficiaries to have more than a few thousand dollars' worth of counted assets.

The most common means-tested programs are federal Supplemental Security Income or SSI, the federal-state Medicaid program and some smaller state programs. In particular, Medicaid covers significant medical expenses, housing and long-term care for many individuals with severe disabilities.

The desire to support your loved one

Parents, siblings, other relatives and friends may generously want to provide financially for persons with disabilities or include them in their estate planning. But these good intentions can backfire by making the beneficiaries ineligible for public benefits if they receive too much money or certain assets outright.

Special needs trusts

To preserve public benefit eligibility and still allow people a way to contribute to the well being of their loved ones with disabilities, the law allows families to set up special needs trusts, also sometimes called supplemental needs trusts or SNTs. The SNT is a legal vehicle for holding assets in trust for an individual with disabilities to be managed by a trustee for the benefit of that person.

Typically, money from an SNT supplements the public benefits that already provide for the most basic needs. SNT expenditures may include special equipment; beneficial technology; dental or therapy costs not covered by public programs; classes and leisure activities; vacations and other meaningful life experiences that would otherwise not be possible for most with serious disabilities.

Seek out a qualified Nevada estate planning attorney

The federal and state laws that impact SNTs are extremely complicated. Such a trust must be carefully drafted and managed in accordance with these laws and regulations in order to preserve the beneficiaries' eligibility for public benefits.

SNTs also may come into play when a person becomes disabled in an accident for which another person is liable. The proceeds of a personal injury lawsuit may need to be placed into a special type of trust.

Retaining legal counsel with specific knowledge about SNT law and experience in drafting special needs trusts is crucially important to any Nevadan with a loved one with disabilities. Even a family of modest means should seek this important legal advice as even a relatively small amount of money can make a person ineligible for public benefits.

Related Information:

  1. American Association for Home-care (Nov 07, 2010). Changes in Medicare Policies Make it Difficult for Nevada Beneficiaries to Obtain Power Wheelchairs
  2. Polizzotto & Polizzotto (Nov 28, 2010). The Role of Special Needs Trusts
  3. (Mar 23, 2011). Planning Steps for Parents of Special Needs Children

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