Shielding the Financial Future of Individuals with Disabilities

Frequently Asked Questions

Who may benefit from a Special Needs Trust (SNT) or Pooled Special Needs Trust?

All beneficiaries of a Special Needs Trust or Pooled SNT must be determined to be disabled or meet the Social Security definition of disabled, and may be:

  • Nursing Home or Assisted Living Residents
  • Personal Injury award recipients
  • Wards in a guardianship
  • Inheritance recipients
  • Applicants or recipients of Public Assistance Programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

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What law allows for special needs trusts?

The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 (OBRA '93) is the Federal Law that brought us the Guardian Pooled Trust. The federal statute permitting Pooled Trusts is 42 U.S.C. 1396 p (d)(4)(C). It reads:

(C) A trust containing the assets of an individual who is disabled (as defined in section 1382c (a)(3) of this title) that meets the following conditions:

(i) The trust is established and managed by a non-profit association.

(ii) A separate account is maintained for each beneficiary of the trust, but, for purposes of investment and management of funds, the trust pools these accounts.

(iii) Accounts in the trust are established solely for the benefit of individuals who are disabled (as defined in section 1382c (a)(3) of this title) by the parent, grandparent, or legal guardian of such individuals, by such individuals, or by a court.

(iv) To the extent that amounts remaining in the beneficiary's account upon the death of the beneficiary are not retained by the trust, the trust pays to the State from such remaining amounts in the account an amount equal to the total amount of medical assistance paid on behalf of the beneficiary under the State plan under this subchapter.

The State of Florida has incorporated the Federal Law into the Economic Self-Sufficiency Manual at section 1640.0576.08. This is the Manual state workers use to determine eligibility for Florida Public Assistance Programs. The Manual states:

A trust containing the assets of an individual who is disabled, if:

  1. it was established on or after 10/01/93;
  2. the trust is established and managed by a nonprofit association;
  3. a separate account is maintained for the beneficiary of the trust but, for purposes of investment and management, the trust pools the accounts;
  4. the trust is established solely for the disabled individual by a parent, grandparent, legal guardian, court or the individual himself; and
  5. to the extent that amounts remaining in the trust upon the individual's death are not retained by the trust, the trust pays to the state an amount equal to the total amount of medical assistance paid on behalf of the individual.

Guardian Pooled Trust members can be any age but must be disabled. However, there does not need to be a formal determination of disability by Social Security.

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What are your fees?

Our fees are very competitive.  Although they may not be the lowest that you will find, we do not charge extra or hidden fees for phone calls, distribution requests, mailings, recurring bill payment, account balances, etc.  Please call us at 800-669-2499 for more information or if you have any questions.

Current SNT fee schedules:

Pooled (d)(4)(C) Trust fee schedule

Individual (d)(4)(A) Trust fee schedule

Pooled Third-Party SNT fee schedule

Individual Third-Party SNT fee schedule

Click here for our general trustee fees (non SNT).

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What is a Medicare Set-Aside account (MSA)?

A Medicare Set-Aside account, commonly referred to as an “MSA,” is an arrangement that allows a claimant to preserve their Medicare benefits by setting aside a portion of an injury or worker's compensation settlement in a segregated account (the MSA account) to pay for expenses that are related to the injury.

At the time of settlement, the attorneys will calculate the amount of money that would otherwise be paid by Medicare for injury related medical treatment over the claimant's life expectancy. This amount is then placed in the MSA.  The funds in the MSA account are only to be used for future expenses for the related injury.  This type of arrangement ensures that funds are available to pay for medical care due to the related injury, as Medicare will not be responsible for future payment.  Medicare approves this set aside amount, and once exhausted, Medicare will again be responsible for injury related expenses if all of the funds in the MSA were appropriately utilized.

At Guardian Trust, we administer MSAs accounts within a Special Needs Trust. Generally, MSAs would be considered an available resource for Medicaid or SSI purposes unless it is held within a Special Needs Trust.

In addition to the Special Needs Trust or Pooled Trust administrative fees, the fees to administer the MSA account are:

1. Administrative Fee.

a. $950 (Nine Hundred Fifty dollars) one-time enrollment fee

b. 5% (Five Percent) annual administrative fee on the balance of the MSA account

c. 5% (Five Percent) fee on each additional deposit into the MSA account

2. There will also be an additional fee for the services of a Medicare claims payment representative. There may also be additional administrative expenses as set forth in the Trust Agreement and in the Joinder Agreement.

All fees and expenses are deducted from the beneficiary's non-MSA Special Needs Trust or Pooled Trust account, or, paid through an annuity.

We use an Addendum to accompany our Joinder Agreement for utilizing our MSA services.  Click here for a copy of the Addendum.

As always, please feel free to call or email our office with any questions that you or your attorney may have regarding our MSA services.

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What types of expenses can the trusts pay for?

In general, a beneficiary's funds can be used for anything that will benefit the beneficiary physically, emotionally, or spiritually.  We may have specific limitations depending on the individual trust document if there is one, but for the first-party pooled trust, the sole-benefit general rules apply.

REMEMBER: According to Federal Law, we are not permitted to make distributions from the pooled trust account after the death of the beneficiary. 

If you have not already purchased prepaid burial arrangements, we strongly encourage the purchase of an irrevocable prepaid burial agreement.  We are not able to pay for or reimburse for these expenses after the passing of the beneficiary.  Contact us with any questions. 

Types of distributions that are acceptable during the lifetime of the beneficiary:

  • Clothing
  • Dental expenses
  • Attorney's fees
  • Guardian's fees
  • Services of a care manager
  • Computer, TV, movies
  • Medical insurance
  • Medications
  • Telephone, cable, internet and cellular phone
  • Vacation and travel for the Beneficiary
  • Medical care such as alternative procedures or alternative medications
  • Prepaid Burial Arrangements
  • Adapted vehicles or vans
  • Care for pets

NOTE: If a Beneficiary is receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), care must be taken to avoid use of the trust funds for "food or shelter expenses" when possible.

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What is the proper way to request a distribution from the trust account?

The proper way to request a distribution from the trust account is to submit a completed and signed Distribution Request Form and include the coresponding documentation.  This can be done via scan/mail, e-mail, or fax (727-754-5948)

It is imperative that the proper documentation (receipts, invoices, etc.) supporting the request is submitted with the Distribution Request Form. If you need a copy of your personalized request form, please click here to email us.

Please call us at 727-210-1185 or email us with any questions regarding this process.

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Is there a maximum number of distributions that can be made from the trust account?

Unlike many other Trustees, we do not have a maximum number of distributions that can be made from the trust account.  We understand that a Beneficiary's needs may vary from month to month, making it impossible to estimate what a "reasonable number" of distributions will be requested. 

We pride ourselves on not charging "hidden fees" that other Trustees may charge their clients.  Please contact us with any questions you may have. 

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How are the assets invested?

Guardian Trust is professionally invested, with a focus on approrpriately investing funds for individuals with disabilities. Within the Guardian Pooled Trust, assets are pooled together for economic scale; however each beneficiary's sub-account has its own accounting.

 

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What protection is there for my money?

In order to provide peace of mind to our Beneficiaries, we house our liquid funds at FDIC insured financial institutions.  We also have insurances which provide coverages under an Errors and Omissions policy and a Fidelity (Crime) policy. We will provide a copy of these insurances upon request.

In addition, we utilize an independent auditing firm (CBIZ MHM, LLC - Tampa Bay) to conduct an audit of all of our procedures and accountings.

By providing these insurances and conducting an outside audit, we set ourselves apart from other pooled trust administration companies. 

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What language do I need for my Will or Trust to fund an account with the Guardian Special Needs Trust (third-party pooled trust)?

Here is some sample language your attorney can use to draft provisions to fund a Guardian Special Needs Trust(our third-party pooled trust) sub-account for your loved one using your Will or Trust.

 

“I give and bequeath (the sum of $___________OR ____%) of my estate to the Trustees of The Guardian Special Needs Trust dated May 27, 2015 (“the Trust”), as Trustees for the benefit of_____________, the beneficiary of this share.

 

Said funds to be held In Trust for the uses and purposes and upon the terms contained in the Trust, and further subject to the following terms and conditions. (Attorneys may wish to add specific clauses with respect to their client’s wishes.)

 

Upon the death of the said beneficiary, the principal and income then remaining, after the application of Sections 6.1 and 6.2 of the Trust, shall be paid as follows:

 

_______________________________________________________________________________”

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Can I switch pooled trusts?

YES! We have had beneficiaries join our trust by leaving other Pooled Trusts.

Are you not able to get up-to-date accountings with your current Pooled Trust? Are you dissatisfied with the service provided to you by your current Pooled Trust?  

We want to make it easy for you to transfer from your current pooled trust to the Guardian Pooled Trust. Outside of a guardianship, you do not need a court order. Simply direct your current trustee to distribute the entire remaining account according to our joining instructions under the Membership Procedure tab. For those of you in guardianships, you will need a court order. We have set up a sample Petition and Order for transferring between Pooled Trusts to help get you going in the right direction. We look forward to assisting you with our outstanding service and commitment.

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What if I no longer need my special needs trust?

We are frequently asked "What happens with my Pooled Trust Account if I no longer need SSI or Medicaid?" First we would say "Congratulations!" You are now in situation where you don't have to worry about the strict limitations Social Security places on you or the limited services Medicaid provides to you.

However, we cannot just terminate the Pooled Trust Account and give a beneficiary the remaining balance. Federal policy is very clear that if the Pooled Trust Account is terminated during the lifetime of the beneficiary, the State Medicaid lien(s) MUST BE PAID BACK IN FULL before a beneficiary can get his or her money back. See the POMS on Early Termination at SI 01120.199. Therefore, the account continues. However, now we have more flexibility in the administration. If the beneficiary is no longer receiving SSI then we do not have "in-kind support and maintenance" concerns or income limits for the beneficiary. If the beneficiary is no longer eligible for Medicaid we can treat the Pooled Trust Account as more of a general support trust and continue to pay for goods or services for the beneficiary or, in some instances, make payments directly to the beneficiary. There is likely not a good reason to go ahead and pay off the Medicaid trust lien rather than continue to have those funds remain for the beneficiary to use during his or her life. We can request the Medicaid trust lien amount and work with the beneficiary and his or her legal advisor to determine if terminating the account and paying off the lien is in the beneficiary's best interest.

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