What is a Supplemental Needs Trust?

A supplemental needs trust is designed to provide benefits to, and protect the assets of, physically or mentally disabled people. A supplemental needs trust is set up for a disabled person with funds provided by a third party. These trusts still allow such persons to qualify for and receive governmental health care benefits, such as long-term nursing or home care benefits and Supplemental Security Disability.

An experienced elder law attorney can help you make assets available for a disabled beneficiary without making these additional assets diminish any eligibility for social welfare or government benefit programs, such as Medicaid. A supplemental needs trust is funded with assets belonging to someone other than the person with a disability, such as by a parent or grandparent. This trust provides additional financial resources that supplement a disabled person’s public benefits, further enhancing their quality of life.

Eligibility for public assistance usually mandates that a disabled individual holds very limited resources, typically less than $2,000. If a disabled individual who is receiving public benefits has resources in excess of $2,000, eligibility for public benefits may be at risk.

To qualify for a supplemental needs trust, a disabled recipient must meet the following criteria:


  • Must be under the age of 65
  • Cannot living in a state institution or nursing home
  • The trust is funded by someone other than the disabled person or his or her spouse
  • Payments must be made directly to the trust and not to the beneficiary


An experienced elder law attorney can work with your family to help you create a supplemental needs trust to maximize a loved one’s public benefits while ensuring that the individual also receives the maximum benefits from this trust.