Special Needs Trusts and Medi-Cal

Special Needs Trusts and Medi-Cal


A Special Needs Trust (SNT) is a type of trust that is designed to provide a person with disabilities, assets which would enhance their quality of life, while enabling them to remain eligible for need-based public benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medi-Cal.

The beneficiary of the SNT remains eligible for such need-based benefits, due to properly placing non-exempt assets in a Special Needs Trust. These trusts are specially drafted; and when necessary, are also approved by the Superior Court.

There are two types of SNTs, a first party SNT, which is funded with the assets of the person with the disability; and, a third party SNT, which is funded by a third person, typically a parent or grandparent of the disabled person. Many times, a SNT provision can be created in an estate plan; specially, when a child or other potential beneficiary is disabled and receiving need-based benefits such as SSI or Medi-Cal, so as to preserve that eligibility.

Sandra Clark and Margarita Vienneau are experienced in the drafting and formation of Special Need Trusts and can help you safeguard the future of a loved one. Additionally, our office is experienced in the court process involving such trusts.

If you have a situation that calls for such consideration, or have questions about the possibility of a SNT, or incorporating one into your estate plan, call the experts at Campbell, Clark & Vienneau today.


There are significant changes to Medi-Cal recovery law for 2017. The most dramatic change is on the recovery of outlays by Medi-Cal after the death of the Medi-Cal recipient. Under the prior law, a Medi-Cal claim was a possibility against a Medi-Cal recipient's assets regardless of the form of the "estate". That is, it would not matter if the asset (say a home) was in a trust, in joint tenancy or in a probate estate. On January 1, 2017 that changed in California under SB 833. Now recovery is limited to those estates that are subject to probate under California law. Thus assets in a properly funded living trust will no longer be subject to the dreaded post-death recovery claim by Medi-Cal.

The same protection is provided for joint tenancy or survivorship, but the protection is not available if both joint tenants or the owner and survivor die in the same occurrence.

Also, once the survivor later dies, the protection would not be available for him or her, since a probate would be required at that point. Thus, leaving a properly funded Living Trust becomes the surest form of asset protection against a Medi-Cal claim.

For those on the fence about having a Living Trust done as an estate plan, the importance of doing so has never been more pronounced, in terms of protecting your assets, primarily your home, from Medi-Cal recovery should you or your spouse incur long term care.

Sandra Clark and Margarita Vienneau, our skilled attorneys at Campbell, Clark & Vienneau, are experienced estate planners and can help you get your estate plan in order, including drafting and funding a Living Trust.