Pooled trusts must adhere to strict state rules, so to keep things manageable, most pooled trusts only take residents that reside in the same state. To find a special needs pooled trust in your state, try contacting one of these organizations:
If you find a pooled trust that you’re interested in, it’s time to ask some detailed questions about how the trust will provide for your loved one.
Pooled trust are unregulated -- no government agency oversees them to make sure they are managing assets wisely and honestly and there is currently no certification or accreditation process for pooled trust programs. So you must investigate the quality of these trusts yourself.
Pooled trusts vary considerably in terms of the services they offer. All offer trust management, investment services, and expertise in federal benefit resource and eligibility rules. The programs tend to differ in:
For this reason, it’s very important to read the materials from any program you are considering and meet with a program representative to discuss the details of the program. Before you sign any papers, the program representative should carefully explain the process, including fees and the scope of services.
In the course of this process, you’ll want to pay close attention to your feelings about the place you’re dealing with and the people you encounter. For instance, if you get a polished presentation, you may be put off if you are more comfortable with “just plain folks”—or you may be impressed by the professionalism. If you are more confused than enlightened, it may be a sign to shop for a different program.
Here are some questions to ask before entrusting your loved one’s inheritance to the program:
When selecting a pooled trust, keep in mind that the quality of the trust may change over time, For example, when you investigate and join a pooled trust, it may have all the services you want, an active and diverse volunteer board, and fees that meet your expectations. However, years later when you die and your loved one’s inheritance is transferred to the trust, the trust could have withdrawn most services, replaced members of the board, or substantially increased its fees.
After money or property is transferred to the trust, there are not a lot of options for the beneficiary or his or her legal representatives. At that point, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to switch pooled trusts or to move out of a trust that no longer is performing adequately. The beneficiary can end up stuck in a pooled trust that at one time did great work but by the time of funding has become a terrible institution.
So, after you sign up with a pooled trust, periodically check to make sure it still meets your requirements. If it does take a turn for the worse, you should be able to change your estate plan to redirect your loved one’s inheritance to another trust.
Learn much more about Special Needs Trusts on Nolo.com.
Also, Special Needs Trust: Protect Your Child’s Financial Future, by Stephen Elias and Kevin Urbatsch (Nolo) provides all of the information and forms you need to make your own special needs trust.