The Complete Guide to Creating a Special Needs Trust: Georgia Laws, Requirements, Costs, & More


Speak with a Special Needs Trust Attorney in Cherokee County, Georgia.

What Is a Special Needs Trust Georgia?

A special needs trust Georgia is one way to make sure that your loved one is provided for, even after you are gone.

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Author: Stan Faulkner, Founder, Perigon Legal Services, LLC

Mr. Faulkner is an experienced counselor and litigator with 15 years of experience, having held bar licenses in four states (Mo, Il, Ct and Ga). Stan Faulkner uses this experience and focuses his skills in the pursuit of assisting individuals in probate (trust and estate) matters, guardianships and conservatorships, estate planning, business disputes and contract disputes. Updated on November 22, 2023.

A trust set up for a person with special needs with money that will supplement government benefits like Social Security is known as a special needs trust. It should be written and set up in a way that the person can simultaneously receive benefits from government programs and money from the trust.


Basics of a Special Needs Trust in Georgia

A special needs trust works when the three parties involved work together. The first party is the donor who supplies the money, while the others include the trustee who administers the money and the disabled beneficiary who receives the money.

Sometimes, the beneficiary’s wishes are made known to the trustee through a document. This lets them know how the beneficiary wants their assets doled out.

Trusts are common in estate planning. The special needs trust – like any other trust – will remain in place even after the donor dies. It is a sure way to manage assets in the event of the donor’s death. If you are interested in setting up a special needs trust for yourself or a loved one, the trusted estate planning lawyers at Perigon Legal Services can help guide you through the process.

What Is a Special Needs Trust Intended For?

A special needs trust is intended to manage a person’s assets so they can still receive other benefits. This ensures that an individual with disabilities can have access to all the financial and medical resources they need to have the highest quality of life possible.

There are three types of these trusts: the pooled trust, the first-party trust, and the third-party trust. In all three, the special needs person is the beneficiary. Here is a brief summary of each:

  • First-Party – Holds funds for a special needs person from a settlement or inheritance.
  • Third-Party – Holds funds from people who want to help.
  • Pooled Party – Holds funds for many beneficiaries.

When parents or family members want to help a disabled relative, they typically go with a third-party trust. There is no limit on the types of assets that can be under the trust – houses, stocks, investments, etc. are included.

Like a first-party trust, the assets will not affect the special needs individual receiving public assistance benefits. The money can be used for daily or supplemental needs not covered by the government money.

Additionally, a third-party trust does not have to be paid back upon the beneficiary’s death. It can instead be transferred to a family member or given to charity.

A pooled trust, unlike the other options, functions more like a charity and allows several beneficiaries to pool their money together while keeping different accounts. When a beneficiary dies, the money in their specific account goes back to the government or goes to the organization that has managed the trust.

A special needs trust can be established by just about anyone. If drafted well according to tax purposes, the donor’s taxes may be reduced. Another purpose of a trust is to ensure that an elderly person’s long-term care covered by Medicaid can still occur while money is placed into a well-drafted special needs third-party trust — this will help make sure they are taken care of in the future. If you are unsure whether this type of trust fits your unique situation, don’t hesitate to reach out to a Georgia estate planning expert.

What Is a Special Needs Trust Intended For

Expert Counsel for Special Needs Trust

What Can a Special Needs Trust Pay For?

You may wonder what a disabled person can pay for with the trust. Here is a brief list of expenses a trust can cover:

  • Special medical equipment like wheelchairs or wheelchair-equipped vans
  • Dental, medical, and other health care costs not covered by insurance
  • Cost of therapy or rehabilitation
  • Education
  • Training
  • Travel costs for self and one other person
  • Entertainment costs like camp, movies, sports equipment, etc.
  • Electronics like computers
  • Legal expenses
  • Insurance premiums

In essence, a special needs trust can pay for anything a parent would typically help cover for a child beyond the simple necessities of life. However, this list is not comprehensive, and your trust can be designed to meet the unique needs of your loved one. To ensure that everything is included and that your trust is set up in compliance with the law, it’s best to sit down with an estate planning attorney to discuss what you would like to include in your trust before making any final decisions.

Special Needs Trust Restrictions

There are certain expenses a trust should not pay for unless otherwise approved by an attorney. These include:

  • Groceries or restaurant meals.
  • Any cash.
  • Rent or mortgage.
  • Property tax, homeowner’s insurance, homeowners association dues, or condo dues.
  • Utilities or utility hookups.

Despite these guidelines, a trustee may decide whether the trust making the above payments will be worth the loss of income. If you believe your loved one will benefit from having a trust – whether it be first-party, third-party, or pooled – speak with an experienced attorney. They can help you determine what is best for you and help you take the next step.


Special Needs Trust Form

Keep in mind that no special needs person is alike, and all cases are different. As such, all special needs trusts will also be different. To find out what type of trust would work best for your loved one, it’s best to meet with a skilled special needs planner who has knowledge and experience in this area. This is especially important if you are pursuing a first-party trust, which can be somewhat complicated.

If you search the Internet for a form to write your own trust, you probably will not find much. This is because high-quality trusts are written by lawyers.

Lawyers typically write these trusts because technical terms should be used, and it should be precise. To keep the money from becoming the beneficiary’s property, language should be used that follows Georgia estate law.

Special Needs Trust Restrictions

Consult a Special Needs Trust Attorney

How Much Does it Cost to Set up a Special Needs Trust?

The main reason for the different number of trusts is the law surrounding Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Aged, blind, or disabled people with little or no incomes can receive the assistance of SSI. To establish eligibility for government assistance, the beneficiary must have a disability and have less than $2,000 in countable assets in their possession. If they have more for any reason, they may qualify if the money is put into a first-party trust.

Cost of a Special Needs Trust Georgia

The trust money can be used as long as the special needs person is alive. Upon the person’s death, the money goes to the government to “pay them back” for medical care. A trust is especially useful if the special needs person receives a lump sum of money for any reason. That way, they can still use government benefits in addition to their own money.

The estimated cost of starting a special needs trust in Georgia is between $2,000 and $3,000. This will ensure your loved one can still receive program benefits.


What Is the Cost of Setting up a Special Needs Trust by an Attorney in Georgia?

While the assistance of an attorney isn’t always required to prepare a trust, their legal know-how may prove beneficial in the process.

An important factor in determining whether you should hire an attorney is the amount of money you plan to place into your trust. Depending on the complexity of your trust, you can expect to pay between $1,000 and $3,000, on average, for an attorney. If the assets you want to deposit go beyond the legal charges of creating the trust, then an attorney might be a great choice.

Consult a Special Needs Trust Attorney Today

In any situation, when it comes to something as important as your beneficiary’s future, it may be worth the cost to seek the advice of an attorney. At Perigon Legal Services, we’re dedicated to making the estate planning process as simple and affordable as possible. We know how delicate these topics are for the families we work with, so we’ve made it our mission to provide reliable, client-centered legal services to help protect what matters most.

Our office is located in the heart of Marietta, Georgia just outside Atlanta, and we’re ready to take your call. If you’re ready to begin creating a comprehensive special needs trust, contact us today to schedule a consultation. We look forward to assisting you!


Special Needs Trusts in Georgia FAQ

What Assets Can Be Placed Into a Special Needs Trust?

Virtually any asset, including cash, stocks, property, and personal items, can be designated to a special needs trust. It’s vital to ensure that these assets do not jeopardize the beneficiary’s eligibility for public assistance programs.

How Is a Special Needs Trust Taxed?

Special needs trusts are generally treated as separate tax entities, requiring their own tax filings. The taxation specifics can vary based on the type of trust and the income it generates, which underscores the importance of consulting with a knowledgeable tax advisor or a trust lawyer.

Can a Special Needs Trust Pay for Housing?

Generally, the trust funds shouldn’t used to pay for expenses such as food, clothing, or shelter. However, trust funds can sometimes be used to pay for some of these expenses. For instance, if the beneficiary doesn’t already have a home, it can be purchased with the trust funds. But, although a special needs trust can fund housing, such expenditures must be meticulously managed to prevent potential reductions in government aid. Each expense should be considered in light of its impact on the beneficiary’s aid eligibility.

Consult a Special Needs Trust Attorney Today

Speak with a Special Needs Trust Attorney

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