Now is one of those times when it is important to revisit your planning. In the past few years, shifts in thinking by the Department of Health and Senior Services have resulted in positions being taken that would eliminate the effectiveness of many special needs trusts. In the past, under New Jersey law, it has been acceptable to create purely discretionary trusts where the trustees have the ability to use income and principal for the discretion of the special needs beneficiary, with no standard as to when the money should be used and in what manner. This created the greatest degree of flexibility in planning and was utilized much of the time. The alternative, the creation of a luxury trust that more specifically delineated how monies could be used, was less appealing as an alternative.
Due to constraints on government funds and an increase in the number of people becoming eligible for benefits in New Jersey, the government has taken a harder look at where benefits can be denied. Special needs children who have purely discretionary trusts have recently been denied eligibility for government assistance as a result of the trusts’ existence. There have been no changes in statutes or regulations that justify this change, however, as a result, it is critical that all special needs trusts be restructured as luxury trusts to best ensure that government benefits will be available to a child with special needs in the future.