Your Trustee Toolkit: Building Support System to Administer a Special Needs Trust
This article is a part of True Link’s SNT Expert Series. We have interviewed leaders knowledgeable in disability planning, Elder Law, and trust administration and will be sharing their expertise with you in a series of videos and posts. Note: the opinions and views expressed in these videos do not necessarily reflect those of True Link Financial or True Link Financial Advisors. This article is not intended to provide investment, legal, tax, accounting or medical advice. Before making decisions involving investing, legal, tax, accounting or medical concerns, you should consult appropriate professionals regarding your speciﬁc situation.
Stepping into the role of trustee can be an overwhelming experience. Many family members who become trustees are taking on this responsibility for the first time, and there’s a lot of new information to take in. But the good news is that there are also a lot of professionals and resources you can turn to for help. In this post we’ll walk through suggestions from three experts on how to build your trust administration support system.
Types of professionals who can help
As a trustee, there are a number of professionals who can help you navigate various aspects of trust administration. These could include:
- Elder Law & Special Needs Attorneys
- Financial Advisors
- Case Managers / Social Workers
- Real Estate / Property Managers
Elder Law and Special Needs Attorney Bryn Poland goes into more detail, “You might seek an attorney who can advise you [...] and give you some important tips and tricks on how to administer that trust. But you may also need a CPA to help advise you on what taxes need to be filed or what reports need to be filed with the IRS.”
She continues, “if your trust has real estate, it might be important to find a real estate professional. [It] could also be really important to find a professional care manager or a social worker or someone who can advise you on the roadmap of public benefits and walk you through what benefits may be available to your beneficiaries.”
<div style="padding:56.25% 0 0 0;position:relative;"><iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/858728547?badge=0&autopause=0&player_id=0&app_id=58479" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; fullscreen; picture-in-picture" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;" title="Experts to Seek out when You're Appointed Trustee"></iframe></div><script src="https://player.vimeo.com/api/player.js"></script>
When to seek out expert guidance
Which professionals you need to bring in will vary based on your loved one’s specific situation and needs, as well as what types of assets are in the trust. And when you do need to bring in an expert, some may be more for short-term advising while others will become a part of your ongoing team. Peter J Wall, True Link Financial Advisors’ Director of Fiduciary Services walks through what aspects of trust administration could benefit from bringing in an expert.
“Determinations like housing for your loved one with a disability can be what we call a “day two choice.” Is it appropriate to live in a group home? Is it appropriate to live at home? Can you pay a family member to be caregivers? [I] highly recommend using a highly skilled Elder Law or Special Needs Trust attorney to walk you through some of those options. And work with your financial planner as well, because [these options] come with different costs, which can shorten the longevity of the trust quite significantly.”
- Taxes and record keeping: As Wall explains, “you need to set up a very robust reporting system because you're going to have to file taxes.”
- Navigating public benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and housing subsidies: Wall stresses that you can navigate these programs on your own, but “they all have different rules. So I highly recommend the use of a case manager to sit down and tell you, ‘hey, your loved one is [eligible] for these benefits and then maybe eligible for these other benefits in the future.”
<div style="padding:56.25% 0 0 0;position:relative;"><iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/858734384?badge=0&autopause=0&player_id=0&app_id=58479" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; fullscreen; picture-in-picture" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;" title="Decisions you Need to Make as a New Trustee"></iframe></div><script src="https://player.vimeo.com/api/player.js"></script>
How to involve family
Professionals aren’t the only ones you may want to lean on as a trustee. Even if you don’t have family with expertise in the areas above, there are ways they can support you and the beneficiary.
A Beneficiary Advocate or Trust Advisor can provide input or guidance regarding the beneficiary's needs, preferences and goals. This can be useful when the trustee needs to make difficult decisions about how trust funds should be used, and it can be valuable to the beneficiary who feels like they really have someone in their corner.
And don’t underestimate the value of emotional support, even if it comes without a specific title or job. Family members who provide comfort, companionship, and a sense of belonging, can contribute significantly to the beneficiary's quality of life.
Keep the beneficiary’s wellbeing as the focus
At the end of the day, your top priority as a trustee is the wellbeing of the beneficiary, so it’s important that anyone you bring onto your support team is aligned in that goal. As Special Needs Attorney Scott Suzuki explains, “The trustee and the beneficiary are the two most important players in this game. Everything's got to be done for the right reasons for the right purposes in the right ways. And the way we want to do that is to build a team to support each of those people.”
<div style="padding:56.25% 0 0 0;position:relative;"><iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/858750720?badge=0&autopause=0&player_id=0&app_id=58479" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; fullscreen; picture-in-picture" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;" title="How a Family Member Trustee Builds a Supportive Team"></iframe></div><script src="https://player.vimeo.com/api/player.js"></script>
Want to watch these videos on Vimeo? Here are the links to the guest expert videos related to this topic:
Experts to Seek Out when You're Appointed Trustee – Bryn Poland, Elder Law and Special Needs Attorney at Mayo & Poland Attorneys at Law
Decisions you Need to Make as a New Trustee – Peter J Wall, Director of Fiduciary Services at True Link Financial Advisors
How a Family Member Trustee Builds a Supportive Team – Scott Suzuki, Special Needs Attorney at Scott C. Suzuki Attorney at Law