Friday, U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) introduced the Special Needs Trust Improvement Act of 2022 to give families greater flexibility in choosing the remainder beneficiary of trusts established for a loved one who has a disability or chronic illness.

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, signed into lawin 2019, empowered families to better plan for loved ones with a disability or chronic illness by allowing retirement funds placed in a Special Needs Trust to be distributed over the lifetime of the individual in lieu of the default ten-year payout rule. While this legislation was an important step towards ensuring families could plan for loved ones with disabilities or chronic illnesses, it did not allow families to name charitable organizations as remainder beneficiaries of Special Needs Trusts. This gap constrains families from fully implementing their financial planning goals and supporting charitable organizations while also providing for their loved ones with special needs. The Special Needs Trust Improvement Act of 2022 closes this gap and gives families the flexibility they need to make informed decisions regarding their retirement funds.

“Hoosier families of individuals with special needs who use their retirement savings to plan for the care of their loved ones should not be restricted from also giving to charitable organizations. I’m proud to work with Senator Hassan on this bipartisan bill to provide relief to these families and the communities that support them,” said Senator Young.

“Parents with children experiencing disabilities have unique considerations when writing a will,” said Senator Hassan. “When designating beneficiaries for a Special Needs Trust, parents will often name a second beneficiary, such as their child’s service provider. This bipartisan bill will extend flexibility to these families, ensuring that parents have peace of mind that their wishes will be honored and that their children will get the care that they need.”

This legislation is endorsed by special needs advocates and families:

David Goldfarb, Director of Financial Security Policy of the Arc of the United States said, “Many parents of children with disabilities worry about how to properly plan to ensure their loved ones have a meaningful life after they pass away. Having their retirement account go to a special needs trust for their child is often part of the equation. The Special Needs Trust Improvement Act of 2022 fixes a quirk in the law that unfairly punishes parents that wish to include charitable organizations as part of the planning process. We are grateful to Senators Young and Hassan for introducing this commonsense legislation.”

Mary E. O’Bryne, President of the Special Needs Alliance said, “As special needs attorneys we work closely with families as we all strive for the highest quality of life and care for individuals with disabilities.  We are pleased to support the Special Needs Trust Improvement Act of 2022, which will benefit our clients with disabilities and our communities by helping support the critical work of non-profit charitable organizations, like The Arc.  We truly appreciate Senators Young and Hassan’s work on this legislation.” 

Hannah Carlock, Director of Public Policy at The Arc of Indiana said, “Whether you have a disability or not, we are all planning for the future, but families with an individual with a disability always have a worry of what will happen to their loved one when all other family members are gone. The Special Needs Trust Improvement Act of 2022 gives peace of mind to these families and individuals with disabilities so they can prepare for the future by not only investing in a special needs trust but also supporting organizations that will continue to serve and provide for loved ones when all other family supports are gone.”

William and Lynda Smith of Greensburg, Indiana said, “We saved not only for our retirement but to also ensure that our daughter with Down Syndrome has a quality life when we are gone. Yet we also want to support the nonprofit organizations who have assisted her. Senator Young’s Special Needs Trust Improvement Act of 2022 will allow us to do both in our planning.”