Special Needs Trust

As Trustee, CoG’s experienced staff understand the complex rules governing public benefits and Special Needs Trusts. We work hard to be our clients’ advocate, offer person-centered care-management services when needed, handle our fiduciary responsibilities in an ethical and honest way, and work with our professional partners to ensure that our clients enjoy the highest quality of life now and in the future.
To learn more about special needs trust

Among the many challenges facing individuals with a disability, their parents, and family members, is planning for the future and ensuring that the individual has the resources to enjoy a full and meaningful life. If you or a loved one have special needs, you might consider setting up a Special Needs Trust. Unlike many other types of trusts, a Special Needs Trust is specifically designed to work for the benefit of the person with a disability.

While government programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI), Medicaid, and Medicare are helpful to people with disabilities, they cannot provide everything. Special Needs Trusts were specially created by Congress to provide people with disabilities a life that includes opportunities over and above basic needs.

The primary purpose of a Special Needs Trust is to preserve government benefits for disabled beneficiaries. Many benefits from government programs have asset eligibility requirements. Although the rules about governmental benefits limit the amount of money a recipient may have, Special Needs Trusts allow you to sidestep these rules.

Corporation of Guardianship (CoG) administers First-Party (d)(4)(A) Trusts, Third-Party Stand-Alone Trusts, First-Party (d)(4)(C) Pooled Trusts, and Third-Party Pooled Trusts. 

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To explore how a Special Needs Trust might benefit you or your loved one, please click below. 

Who May Need A Special Needs Trust?

Any person with a disability who:

  1. Is under the age of 65; AND

  2. Is currently receiving public benefits or may receive benefits in the future; AND

  3. Has received a lump sum of money or assets (an inheritance, a personal injury settlement); OR

  4. Has loved ones that would like to set aside money or assets on the disabled person’s behalf for future needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the Corporation of Guardianship charge a fee for this service?

Yes, CoG is a fee-for-service nonprofit organization. By charging a fee for the services provided for those who are able to pay, CoG is able to continue serving clients who run out of financial resources during their lifetime.

What is a Special Needs Trust?

The primary purpose of a Special Needs Trust is to preserve government benefits for disabled beneficiaries. A trust is a legal document containing instructions directing the management and distribution of the resources placed in the trust. A Special Needs Trust is a trust designed for beneficiaries who are disabled, either physically or mentally and are intended to provide “supplemental and extra care” beyond what is provided by the government.

How does Corporation of Guardianship (CoG) serve as trustee?

Here is a brief list of the duties and responsibilities that CoG fulfills as trustee:
– 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 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.

How can a Special Needs Trust be used?

Special Needs Trusts are designed to supplement, not replace, the kind of basic support provided by government programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Special Needs Trusts pay for comforts and luxuries–special needs–that could not be paid for by public assistance funds.

When determining how the Special Needs Trust can be used, CoG staff consider the following questions:

1. Is the expenditure permitted by the trust terms? Is it prohibited by Medicaid or Social Security regulations?
2. Does the expenditure clearly benefit the trust’s beneficiary?
3. Is there enough money in the trust to make the proposed payment without seriously affecting the ability to provide other benefits in coming years?
4. Are there other sources of funds? If public benefits are available to provide the same items, the money ordinarily should not come from the trust.

What are the different types of Special Needs Trusts administered by CoG?

CoG administers the following types of trusts:

Third Party Special Needs Trust – A trust established by a third party (usually a parent or relative) for the benefit of a loved one with a disability. 
– There are two types of Third Party Special Needs Trusts:
– Third Party Pooled Special Needs Trust
– (also known as a Community Trust)
– Third Party Individual Special Needs Trust

First Party Special Needs Trust – A trust established with the beneficiary’s own funds – a personal injury settlement, inheritance, alimony, sale of property, or the beneficiary’s own savings. 
– There are two types of First Party Special Needs Trusts:
– First Party (d)(4)(C) Pooled Special Needs Trusts
– (also known as an Umbrella Trust)
– First Party (d)(4)(A) Special Needs Trust

I have a disabled family member. How can I set aside funds to care for him or her when I pass away?

Consider a Third Party Special Needs Trust.
A Third Party Special Needs Trust helps you provide financial security for a loved one with a disability—without jeopardizing important government benefits. In contrast, leaving money directly to loved ones can make it impossible for them to get benefits, including Medicaid.
A Third Party Special Needs Trust is funded by someone other than the beneficiary – gifts/inheritances from a parent, grandparent, other family member or friend. Gifts into the trust can be made throughout the beneficiary’s life. Friends and family can even name this type of Special Needs Trust in their will, thereby contributing additional funds at their death.

I have a disabled family member who inherited a lump sum of money when a grandparent died. Can these funds be put into a trust?

Consider a First Party Special Needs Trust.
A First Party Special Needs Trust is funded by the beneficiary’s money – a personal injury settlement, inheritance, alimony, etc. If a disabled person receives a lump sum such as this, it disqualifies the person for public benefits (e.g., SSI and Medicaid) now and in the future, since it is an increase in assets. Setting up a First Party Special Needs Trust enables the beneficiary to retain the additional finances without jeopardizing public benefits.

Do all Special Needs Trusts have the Medicaid payback provision?

Payback refers to paying back the state from money leftover in the trust upon the death of the trust beneficiary as a reimbursement for having received public benefits. 
– First Party Trusts, in which funding usually comes from a personal injury settlement or inheritance, require payback to the state. With a Pooled Trust, a portion will be retained by the non-profit organization that manages the trust. 
– Third Party Special Needs Trusts do not have a payback provision.


“As an estate planning attorney, I appreciate Corporation of Guardianship for serving as a unique resource for clients who have complex needs and benefit from both care management and fiduciary services. Knowing that CoG is there for my clients and understands what it takes to support them is invaluable.”
Larry Rocamora, Esq.
Certified NC Estate Planning Attorney - McPherson, Rocamora, Nicholson, Wilson & Hinkle, PLLC
"The staff of CoG is responsive, helpful and easy to work with. They have their clients best interests in mind. We always enjoy working with them because we know we all want to reach the best result and impact for the client."
Keith S. Hiatt
CPATax Partner - Breslow Starling Frost Warner Boger Hiatt, PLLC
"I greatly appreciate everything you do to keep me protected. I have grown to trust and love the Corporation of Guardianship like my own family. and I never have to wonder if I’m being taken advantage of when it comes to my finances…I am so grateful for the team that I have working behind the scenes to keep my assets safe… I have been afforded many opportunities because of this great non-profit organization. You all do not know how much it means to know there is someone out there who cares about the well-being of those who are not able to fend for themselves."
Special Needs Trust Beneficiary and Self-Advocate Served since 2017
"The conscientious work and exemplary professionalism that CoG always exhibits makes all the difference in the world to your clients and their families. We are so grateful!"
Sister of Special Needs Trust Beneficiary Served since 2015
"Corporation of Guardianship is such a special agency. They provide person centered services and care deeply for their client’s and their community. I have the privilege of working with the staff often as they are leaders in our county’s fight against elder abuse and without a doubt prevent abuse across the state through their much needed services. I would trust Corporation of Guardianship to serve my family or myself as they care for their clients like family."
Heather Magill
Elder Justice Specialist Coordinator - Guilford County Family Justice Center
"The staff at Corporation of Guardianship are top notch, offering knowledgeable, creative, compassionate and smart solutions and advocacy for their clients. As a practicing elder law and special needs planning attorney, COG is an invaluable collaborative partner. They are highly attentive to their clients and go the extra mile to ensure that their advocacy is customized to meet the specific needs. I highly recommend their services. "
Charlotte-Anne T. Alexander, Esq.
Certified Elder Law Attorney - Colombo, Kitchin, Dunn, Ball & Porter
"As an RN Care Manager, I have partnered with Corporation of Guardianship over the past 10 years to assist several mutual clients. As advocates, their team is dedicated to their clients, navigating family situations with tact and professionalism. They truly put the clients’ needs first, even when faced with challenging obstacles. There is not another guardianship agency in the Triangle I would call except the Corporation of Guardianship; they exceed my expectations every time."
Rausa McManus, RN, BSN, CCM
President - LifePro Care Management
"I always find [CoG] goes above the expected. Each time we complete a goal, they are always looking for the next thing they can help with. When someone from the Corporation of Guardianship says they are going to do something, it gets done."
Family Member of Special Needs Trust Beneficiary Served since 2014
“It has been such a pleasure working with Corporation of Guardianship. Their team is caring, knowledgeable and responsive. Their commitment to the individuals and families they help support is unparalleled.”
Allison Sanders
VP of Business Development - Special Considerations
"CoG provides unparrelleled advocacy to those they serve; CoG gives individuals with disabilities the support they need to achieve the highest quality of life"
Tina Glenn
Director - First Light Home Care
"CoG makes a positive difference because the staff truly treats each client as if they were their own family – many of whom (clients) have no other family!"
Marquita P. Laughlin, MA, MSW, LCSW
Home & Community Based Care Social Worker - U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
"Working side by side with The Corporation of Guardianship (CoG) has been a valued partnership throughout the years. As a home care agency, Options for Senior America has been able to see the impact that the CoG has had on their clients. They are able to provide a continuum of care that keeps their clients safe and in the right hands. Being able to witness firsthand, the dedication that they have to their clients and families has been nothing short of amazing. They have always been available, professional, and reliable. Options will always support the Corporation Guardianship and what they do for older adults and those with disabilities!"
Jered Yalung, Pharm.D.
VP of Marketing and Operations - Options for Senior America