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Personal Injury Settlements for Clients With Disabilities: Preserving Means-Tested Government Benefits

Role of Nonprofit Trust Administrator, Intersection of PSNTs and ABLE Act Accounts, Combining Structured Settlement With PSNT

Recording of a 90-minute CLE video webinar with Q&A

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Conducted on Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Recorded event now available

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The CLE webinar will discuss how personal injury attorneys can preserve their clients' means-tested benefits after a personal injury settlement or judgment, focusing on when to use a pooled special needs trust for clients with a disability. The panel will review how to determine whether a pooled special needs trust is appropriate, how to properly document those findings, as well as how to evaluate pooled trust administrators.


If the plaintiff has been receiving public benefits, whether before or because of the injury, receipt of an award could mean loss of those benefits. In some cases, injured clients cannot or should not manage funds on their own.

Special needs trusts can protect both attorneys and their clients because if the settlement is done properly, then funds placed in a first-party special needs trust are not considered a countable resource when clients are qualifying for or maintaining their Medicaid and SSI eligibility. In most cases, the settlement or judgment can be structured to preserve public benefits.

The attorney must consider: (1) whether the client might benefit from available public benefits programs now or in the future; (2) whether the client can responsibly manage a large amount of funds; (3) investment strategy; and (4) estate claims by state agencies.

Listen as this experienced panel provides an explanation of special needs trusts, a comparison of pooled trusts with individual trusts, and questions to ask when evaluating different pooled trust administrators.



  1. Overview
    1. What is a pooled special needs trust
    2. Questions to ask when determining whether a client might benefit from a
    3. special needs trust
    4. Introduce case studies
  2. Overview of government benefits
    1. Means-tested (Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid)
    2. Earned (Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare)
    3. Dual eligibility
  3. Overview of special needs trusts
    1. Comparing individual vs. pooled special needs trusts and governing law
    2. Comparing first-party vs. third-party pooled special needs trusts and
    3. governing law
      1. First-party
        1. Funds from person with a disability (employment, court
        2. award, inheritance, etc.)
        3. Remainder policy with Medicaid payback
        4. Example
      2. Third-party
        1. Funds from other people
        2. Remainder policy
        3. Example
  4. Pooled special needs trusts
    1. Role of nonprofit trust administrator
    2. How funds can be used
      1. Disbursement decision-making roles and responsibilities
      2. How funds can be spent
      3. Traps that could jeopardize public benefits
      4. How PSNTs and ABLE Act accounts intersect
    3. Use of a Medicare Set-Aside Account with PSNT
    4. Use of a structured settlement with PSNT


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • How is a pooled special needs trust different from an individual trust?
  • What is the difference between means-tested and earned benefits?
  • What can funds in a pooled special needs trust be used for?


Baer, Rachel
Rachel Baer, Esq.

Counsel and Director of New Client Services
Commonwealth Community Trust

Ms. Baer, Esq. is Counsel and Director of New Client Services at Commonwealth Community Trust, a non-profit pooled...  |  Read More

Marcus, Joanne
Joanne Marcus, MSW

President and CEO
Commonwealth Community Trust

Marcus, MSW, serves as the President and CEO of Commonwealth Community Trust (CCT). Ms. Marcus has worked in nonprofit...  |  Read More

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