If you have an existing special needs trust, moving to another state could require a change to the trust in order to comply with the rules of the new state. This applies to both first-party trusts (trusts funded with the assets previously owned by an individual with special needs) and third-party trusts (trusts funded with assets gifted or bequeathed from third parties for the benefit of an individual with special needs).

Each state has different rules related to special needs trusts. For example, for third-party trusts, some states will recognize a basic discretionary trust as a special needs trust, while other states require more specific “supplemental needs trust” language to qualify as a special needs trust.

Each state may have different rules related to first party trusts, as well. Although many of the rules related to these trusts are imposed by federal law, many states require additional language or information in the trusts in order to ensure that the beneficiary of the trust who has special needs will qualify to receive governmental assistance. In addition, each state may have different reporting requirements. For example, some states require you to send a copy of the trust to each agency from which you are receiving benefits. Some states also require additional notice when certain dollar amounts are distributed from the trust. For example, in New Jersey, if an expense of $5,000 or more is to be paid from a first party trust, prior written notice must be provided to the New Jersey Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services.

Although special needs trusts are typically irrevocable, a well drafted trust should include a provision allowing the trustee (or the grantor in the case of a first-party trust) the right to modify the trust to conform with state or federal law. If your trust does not contain this language, and the state law of your new state does not allow a modification of the trust, you may need to apply to a court for a modification.