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Someone with special needs may have unique expenses to think about, such as treatments, therapies, equipment, at-home care, and more — all of which are on top of their basic daily necessities. Last week, we talked about needs-based government programs that help cover some of these costs. Those programs provide assistance to people with special needs, and the steps to apply are clear. But once those monthly benefits are in place, it’s important to think about financial security years from now.

how much does an SNT cost

Unfortunately, little information is readily available on long-term planning for people with special needs. But millions of families should know what’s available to them and the actions they need to take.

While government programs can pay for necessities like medical equipment, prescription medication, and transportation, having too much money in a beneficiary’s name can impact his or her eligibility for these monthly benefits. To receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), for example, a person can have a limit of only $2,000 in “countable resources,” and a couple has a limit of $3,000. Countable resources refer to cash, savings, land, life insurance, and other assets. If the value of your resources exceeds the limit (which can happen suddenly upon settlement), you have too much income to be eligible for benefits.

The Special Needs Trust Solution

A special needs trust can help with that issue. This type of trust is meant to supplement financial help from government programs. Funds from a special needs trust can be used for “non-countable” services, expenses, or equipment. These items include (but are not limited to):

  • A home
  • Home furnishings and personal belongings
  • A vehicle
  • Occupational goals, such as the pursuit of a college degree or vocational training
  • Essentials for self-support
  • Life insurance policies
  • Burial expenses

Establishing a trust provides peace of mind that a person with special needs will have funds well into the future to cover these important costs.

How Much Does a Special Needs Trust Cost?

Starting at your local bank or a big national institution may seem like the safest bet, but it is actually the most expensive route. Trustee fees and expense ratios at these institutions can run as high as three percent. On the other hand, a professional independent trustee will usually offer fees of about 0.5 to 0.6 percent. More on that topic here.

A special needs trust is just one way individuals can maintain eligibility for government benefits when their income exceeds the limit. If you’re planning for your or your child’s future, be sure to get the right information from day one. Consider speaking with an experienced financial planner, who will streamline the financial arrangements and get you on the right track. Financial advisors can develop a long-term strategy and then manage the funds throughout a person’s life.

About John Bair

John Bair has guided thousands of plaintiffs through the settlement process as co-founder of Milestone Consulting, LLC, a broad-based settlement planning and management firm. Milestone’s approach is comprehensive and future-focused. John’s team has guided thousands of clients by taking the time to understand the complexities of each case. They assess the best outcome and find the path that enables each client to manage their many needs. Read more about Milestone Consulting at


One Comment

  1. Gravatar for Todd Sensing

    Great post, John. It's so important for families to hold on to their government benefits for the basics while still being able to save within a trust. I'm happy to see ABLE accounts in some states as it shows there is some recognition that families with members that have special needs require more savings tools that allow benefit retention than they currently have in place.

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