Special needs attorneys are well positioned to advise trustees, personal injury attorneys, structured settlement brokers and estate planners on the intricacies of disability and public benefits law. These are evolving areas of practice, and professionals who are unfamiliar with them risk liability for inadequately addressing client needs.


Administering a special needs trust (SNT) involves demanding responsibilities. Trustees must stay up-to-date on government benefit programs, and there are strict guidelines for SNT distributions. They are also responsible for tax filings and sometimes are required to submit detailed accountings to courts or other agencies. For those reasons, and as a good trust practice, they must maintain detailed financial records. Special needs attorneys can advise trustees on how to manage SNTs so that beneficiaries’ eligibility for means-tested programs is preserved and their own responsibilities are discharged.

Personal Injury Attorneys

A personal injury/medical malpractice settlement paid directly to an individual with disabilities can easily disqualify that person for means-tested benefits. Special needs attorneys can partner with personal injury counsel to determine whether or not such funds should be held in an SNT to protect the plaintiff’s eligibility. Special needs attorneys can also resolve third party and government claims against settlement proceeds, including whether or not a Medicare set-aside will be required and what effect the Affordable Care Act may have on their client’s care options.

Structured Settlement Brokers

Special needs attorneys can work with structured settlement brokers and their clients to determine what portion of a court settlement will be needed to address immediate needs and how much should be allocated to an annuity. If the injured individual will be participating in means-tested government programs, the structured payments should be directed to an SNT. Our attorneys can ensure that all documentation is drafted in a manner that ensures that public benefits are not affected and that the government does not claim premature reimbursement for its services.

Estate Planning Attorneys

If your client has a family member with disabilities, their estate planning will be more complicated. Partnering with a Special Needs Alliance attorney can help assure that you don’t overlook important considerations unique to the fast-changing areas of benefits and disability law. Special needs attorneys can draft SNTs to ensure the individual’s financial security, while protecting eligibility for government benefits. They can advise on guardianship and its alternatives in order to maintain an appropriate balance between independence and protection. They can offer practical experience with the disability community and options. And they can advise on integrating key documents with a last will and testament.