Special needs require a special trust

Being a parent or carer is a big job. If you have a young child, adult child or relative who has special needs, the job is even bigger. Your role in their lives is critical, and you will be anxious to ensure that protective measures are put in place for them when you’re no longer there.

What is a Special Disability Trust?

A Special Disability Trust (SDT) is a trust regulated by the Commonwealth government and designed to provide a trust for the benefit of a beneficiary who meets the disability criteria set in the legislation. It has trustees who control the fund exclusively for the benefit of the disabled beneficiary. The SDT can be created while you are living or placed in your Will where you can gift an inheritance into it for the benefit of a named beneficiary.

What are the advantages and disadvantages?

One key advantage of the SDT is that assets held by it up to a certain threshold are immune from the Government income and assets tests for disability support pensions.

However, these trusts are more restrictive in terms of dictating the control of the Trust and how money is spent on the beneficiary, given that they are regulated by the Commonwealth government. There is also a limit on the amount you can place into the SDT.

Protecting your vulnerable beneficiary in your Will

Where your intended beneficiary is likely to meet the criteria for an SDT, we recommend including both a protective trust and an SDT in your Will, with specialist clauses to allow your Executors to decide how much each Trust should receive so that any disability pension can be preserved while simultaneously keeping the income flexibility and tax advantages of the protective trust.

This is a sensitive and complex area where you need the full attention of a wills and estates lawyer experienced in the area of special disability trusts to talk through the issues. At your first consultation with us, we will provide you with options to help you best structure your estate plan for your situation so that you can have peace of mind that you have provided properly for your vulnerable loved one.

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Frequently Asked Questions

For more information on including an SDT in your Will, please read our factsheet.

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