Most special needs trusts (SNTs) are set up to benefit one individual. But it’s possible to contribute to a trust where the funds of many people with special needs are “pooled.” This kind of trust, called a pooled or (d)(4)(C) trust, may be a better option for some people than the conventional SNT, depending on the circumstances.
In a pooled trust, individual beneficiaries create accounts within a larger trust, which is managed by a non-profit association. But as with an individual SNT, transfers into a pooled trust do not prevent a person with special needs from accessing government benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Funds in a pooled trust are used to supplement a beneficiary's government benefits, and the funds can be used to pay for reoccurring bills, clothes, and other expenses.
Pooled trusts have some advantages over individual SNTs. One is that pooling trust resources can reduce administrative fees, which may be attractive if the funds available for a trust are of a modest size. Also, because a pooled trust accepts contributions from many beneficiaries, the trust may be able to make more stable investments and provide additional management services that an individual special needs trust might not be able to afford. Finally, at the beneficiary's death the state does not have to be repaid for its Medicaid expenses on her behalf as long as the funds are retained in the trust for the benefit of other beneficiaries with special needs. (At least, that's what the federal law says; some states require reimbursement under all circumstances.)
Although a pooled trust is an option for an individual over age 65 who is receiving Medicaid or SSI, those over age 65 who make transfers to the trust may incur a transfer penalty, depending on their state of residence.
When should a person with special needs consider a pooled trust? While each beneficiary's situation is different, a person who has only a small amount of money in his name may like the low cost of a pooled trust. Others may simply appreciate the fact that their funds will be used to help others with special needs.
Available in most states, pooled trusts are helpful, if underutilized, tools for people with special needs. Talk to your qualified special needs planner about whether a pooled trust is the right choice for you.
For a list of pooled trusts around the nation, click here.