On December 13, 2016, President Obama signed into law the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act as part of the 21st Century Cures Act. The new act allows first party special needs trusts to be established by mentally competent individuals with disabilities for their own benefit.
Prior to this, first party special needs trusts could only be established for disabled persons by their parent, grandparent, legal guardian, or a Court, necessitating in many cases the expense and delay of a Court application or family involvement to establish these trusts. Now, and effective as of December 13, 2016, adults with disabilities who are competent may establish and fund their own first party special needs trusts.
Specials needs trusts can be invaluable to disabled individuals who receive benefits through means tested programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), enabling them to enjoy the benefit of trust assets without disqualifying them from essential governmental assistance.