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  • Herb Thomas

Trust Considerations for Spinal Cord Injured Individuals

Updated: Sep 25

September is Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month. On an unfortunate but regular basis, we learn of people involved in accidents that cause spinal cord injuries. The most common causes are auto and motorbike accidents, which consist of over 50% of the statistics. No matter who we are, or how old we are, we are suspectable to this life-altering injury. 



As implied, a spinal cord injury can change a life forever. In severe cases, paraplegia, the paralysis of the legs and lower body, can result. Quadriplegia, the paralysis of all four limbs, can sometimes occur as well. Sometimes, a survivor of such a trauma may receive settlement funds from a lawsuit, or an inheritance via a third-party Special Needs Trust (SNT). The right fiduciary firm can help you manage an SNT for you or your loved one who has suffered a spinal cord injury. This helps to ensure access to high-quality care and financial stability for life. There are several things to take into consideration when working with an attorney to establish a trust for yourself or for someone else.

Purpose of a Special Needs Trust

A special needs trust is established for a person who may have special needs due to disabling condition(s). The purpose of an SNT is to supplement any public benefits, meaning government benefits, like Supplemental Security Income or Medi-Cal that the person with special needs may receive. A properly drafted special needs trust will allow the beneficiary to receive government benefits while still receiving funds from the trust.

Two Types of Special Needs Trusts

There are at least two types of SNTs that we will discuss that can benefit a person who has received funds either through a settlement or inheritance—first-party trusts and third-party trusts. While these options differ from one another in various ways, they both offer financial benefits to a person who has a spinal cord injury. 

First-Party Special Needs Trust

A first-party SNT is funded by the assets of the beneficiary. Assets can come from many sources, including previously held funds, an inheritance, or a settlement. One good thing about placing assets into a first-party trust is that it allows the beneficiary to remain eligible for any government benefits that he or she may qualify for. By putting assets into a properly executed first-party SNT, any existing property will not count against them in this way.

Third-Party SNT

A third-party SNT is established for the beneficiary by a “third-party,” a person or group of people who fund the trust with their own assets. These individuals who fund the trust can be family members, friends, caring neighbors, etc. In the case of a third-party Special Needs Trust, a trustee is appointed to administer the trust. As with the first-party SNT, the third-party SNT is designed to allow a beneficiary to access public benefits while providing the opportunity to a higher quality of life than what otherwise may be available if the funds didn’t exist.

Kairos Fiduciary Services

At Kairos Fiduciary Services we specialize in the administration of both first-party SNTs and third-party SNTs. If you would like more information about the administration of a special needs trust for yourself, or someone else, contact us at 510-749-8358, or email info@kairosfiduciary.com.

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