Many people with special needs rely on government benefits for their day-to-day care. Without those benefits, they could not survive for long. However, having access to property and other assets can make one ineligible for many government benefits, which at one time meant that people with special needs had to be paupers and not own property.
To address that problem, special needs trusts were created.
A parent, grandparent, guardian or a court could create a trust for the person with special needs. If done properly, that would not make them ineligible for government benefits. However, people with special needs were not allowed to create the trusts for themselves. The law assumed that everyone with special needs lacked the mental capacity to create a trust.
This was the subject of a recent article in the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog titled "The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act Has Passed."
Both the House and the Senate voted to pass the Special Needs Fairness Act, which gives the ability for people with special needs to create their own trusts for themselves. On Dec. 13, 2016, President Obama signed this into law when he signed a larger piece of health care legislation.
Special needs trusts still need to be set up carefully, so people with special needs should seek expert assistance to set up their own.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Dec. 7, 2016) "The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act Has Passed."