Trial Attorney FAQs
What are the terms I should be familiar with?
PSNT – Pooled Special Needs Trust
SSNPT – Settlement Solutions National Pooled Trust
Trust Beneficiary or Injury Victim – Your client
Trial Attorney – You
Elder Law Attorney – Special Needs Trust Attorney
Joinder Agreement – Document Created for Injury Victim to join the pooled trust
Master Trust – Master trust created for PSNT that people join via the joinder
Is a pooled special needs trust only for small settlements?
No. A PSNT (pooled special needs trust or (d)(4)(C) pooled trust) is appropriate for any size settlement. One of the primary benefits of a PSNT is that small settlements can be accepted and combined or “pooled” with other trust sub-accounts. However, there is nothing that prevents larger settlements from taking advantage of the low cost of administration with a PSNT. Administration fees are less than they are for an individually managed SNT ((d)(4)(A) stand-alone SNTs), and the SSNPT offers the same high level of service since it employs a national trust company as administrator. Many pooled trusts offer very limited options in terms of how money held in the trust can be invested which is why some believe that it isn’t a good option for larger settlements. That isn’t the case with the SSNPT though as many investment options and platforms are available.
What are the logistics and process for establishing a PSNT?
The educational process and completion of paperwork is typically led by the trial attorney who is completely involved in the entire process, or as uninvolved as he/she might choose. In the alternative, SSNPT has a national network of elder law attorneys who can handle the entire process on behalf of the injury victim. Before the process gets started, the trial attorney or the elder law attorney speaks with a team member at SSNPT so we can guide them through the process.
The trial attorney or the elder law attorney completes the Joinder Agreement via our exclusive on-line portal. After the documents are complete and executed, the Trustee then accepts the request to join the Pooled Special Needs Trust and executes the agreement on behalf of the trust. It is the obligation of the injury victim to inform the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Medicaid of a material change in circumstance in the ten day period after which it has occurred. However, either the trial attorney or the elder law attorney will need to send both SSA and the Medicaid office information related to the establishment of the trust: the executed Joinder Agreement, a copy of the check or wire transfer to fund the PSNT share, and contact information to call SSNPT if there are any questions. The nonprofit Trustee, through its trust administrator, establishes the account upon receipt of all executed documents and funding. The trust administrator is responsible for the investment, disbursement and reporting of the trust resources.
Who Educates the Client About the Operation of the PSNT?
A member of the SSNPT can work with a beneficiary to explain how/why the PSNT will protect the injury victim’s government benefits, what expenses the trust can/cannot pay, how distributions will be made, and what will happen if the client decides to create a PSNT sub-account. If the trial attorney or an elder law attorney is comfortable with explaining Special Needs Trusts and understands how the SSNPT works, then he /she may be more comfortable handling the education, paperwork and set up of the PSNT without the involvement of the SSNPT team. After the trust is funded, the client (beneficiary) will be aligned with the trust administrator. They will continue to work with and educate the trust beneficiary.
Will government benefits be impacted by establishment of the PSNT?
Entitlement benefits will not be affected: Medicare and SSDI. Medicaid and SSI will be retained if any type of special needs trust is put into place. Food Stamps and Housing Benefits may or may not be impacted. The effect that an SNT will have on those types of benefits is dependent upon the rules which vary greatly from state to state and agency to agency. Waiver programs may be impacted as well. Needs based public assistance benefits can be lost if the trust funds are not used in accordance with the rules set forth in Social Security Administration guidelines. The trust administrator is responsible for protecting and preserving public assistance benefits as well as making sure any disbursements will not cause loss of eligibility.
Will the monies held in the PSNT be invested and earn interest?
Yes. It is up to the trust beneficiary and their family to decide the nature of the investments. The trust monies can be conservatively invested to preserve capital for as long as possible or invested more aggressively. Interest and gains earned are credited to the trust beneficiary’s PSNT sub-account.
How can the injury victim request distributions of the funds put into the PSNT?
The beneficiary requests funds and/or payments from their individual account in the pooled trust through a standardized disbursement request form. They will have access to their account via an on-line portal. In addition, they may be given a True Link debit card to use for ordinary monthly expenses. This debit card is hard coded so that only purchases that will not impact eligibility can be made with the card.
Who will the injury victim work with at SSNPT?
At inception, the injury victim will receive a welcome packet with all of the necessary information about interacting with the trust administrator. The injury victim will interact with an assigned contact who will educate the beneficiary and communicate with them when the need arises.
What happens at death? Does the trust retain the money when the beneficiary dies?
No, not the SSNPT. Although many do, it is not required that a PSNT permanently retain monies remaining when the beneficiary of a trust dies. A nonprofit organization administering a (d)(4)(C) trust has the option to retain the monies held in a pooled trust sub-account after a beneficiary dies. However, the other option is to allow the trust beneficiary the ability to name, in the Joinder Agreement, a remainder beneficiary. SSNPT gives its beneficiary the option to payback Medicaid or have the monies retained by the non-profit trustee (Foundation for Those With Special Needs – FTWSN).
Must a PSNT pay back Medicaid for benefits provided to the beneficiary at death?
First party funded trusts must have a payback clause pursuant to federal law, but third party funded trusts do not need to have a payback clause.
What happens when a SSNPT beneficiary dies?
The family, or guardian, informs SSNPT of the death and sends in a copy of the death certificate. SSNPT informs Medicaid of the death, and requests a statement of claim if the trust is first party. If it’s a third party trust, typically there is no Medicaid involvement or need to inform them. When SSNPT receives that amount, a check is paid to Medicaid and the remainder of the funds are paid out to the remainder beneficiary named in the Joinder Agreement at inception, or as it has been amended. There is a small retained amount for closing out the account.
What if my client no longer wants to have a PSNT?
There are provisions in the Trust Agreement that allows the beneficiary to move funds out of the SSNPT into another PSNT. A PSNT must be irrevocable so SSNPT is not allowed to send a check for the remaining funds to the beneficiary, but they can move the funds to another PSNT.