Special Needs Trusts (SNT) Fairness Act is Now Law in New York State

By Stephen J. Silverberg
New York Elder Law Attorney

New York State has issued a General Information System message (GIS 17 MA/08) that gives mentally competent individuals with disabilities the right to establish a Special Needs Trust without requiring the involvement of a parent, grandparent, guardian or court. The change became effective on May 22, 2017.

The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act aligns New York State law with federal law and will make a big difference in the lives of disabled individuals who now have the right to control this aspect of their financial lives.

We reported the history of the act and the pending change to federal law when President Obama was about to sign the Fairness in Medicaid Supplemental Needs Trust Act  into law as part of the 21st Century Cures Act.

In the past, a parent, grandparent, court or guardian was needed to open a Special Needs Trust, regardless of the capacity of the disabled individual. It was unfair, and took away the dignity of an individual who was otherwise able to manage this aspect of their lives.

This was particularly onerous when there was no living parent or grandparent. A court proceeding was necessary to establish the trust and the administration of the trust was subject to court supervision and scrutiny for the life of the beneficiary.

These trusts often include inherited assets or settlement awards. They may now be used to help pay for supplemental expenses that are not covered by Medicare and other means-tested governmental benefit programs.

If you or someone in your family has questions about the new law, Special Needs Trusts or any related matters, please call the office for more information at 516-307-1236.

About the Author
Stephen J. Silverberg is nationally recognized as a leader in the areas of estate planning, estate administration, asset preservation planning, and elder law. He is a past president of the prestigious National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), and a founding member and past president of the New York State chapter of NAELA.