Community Trust manages each trust in ways that avoid interfering with public benefits, so that the benefits from the trust don’t simply replace public benefits. We make about 300 distributions per week, which is enough volume that we have a “system” in place, and we try to stay within those boundaries. In emergencies, of course, we make exceptions.
The preferred way of requesting distributions is by regular first-class (“snail”) mail, although fax also is used routinely. Community Trust provides forms on its website to simplify the process of requesting distributions. Every request for distributions must be supported by invoices and/or receipts. As Trustee, we are responsible to account to our beneficiaries, as well as to public benefits programs on demand, and so we have to keep records to document every distribution.
We do not accept requests or documentation via e-mail, except under special circumstances, and we discourage physically dropping off of documents, because it can cause papers to be misplaced. Our “system” serves our beneficiaries well, and we don’t disrupt it unless doing so is critical to the needs of our beneficiaries.
The time between a distribution request and the mailing of a check to the vendor or other provider can be as short as one day, or as long as four days, depending upon when during our distribution cycle the request and supporting documents are received. Processing normally is done on Tuesdays and Fridays, and checks normally are ready for mailing the next business day.
Most beneficiaries are aware that their trust cannot distribute income or principal to them directly, because the purpose of the trust is to preserve public benefits. Virtually all public benefits consider any receipt of funds from a trust as income, which reduces their benefits for that month, and sometimes for longer. Part of the value that we bring to our role as trustee is to understand and play by these rules.
There are other rules that we have to follow. One of the most general rules is that distributions must be for the “sole benefit” of the beneficiary.
For example, sometimes a beneficiary may want Community Trust to use the account for expenses that only indirectly, if at all, benefit the person, such as holiday gifts, support for a grandchild, expenses of real estate that the beneficiary does not occupy, or other purposes that directly or indirectly benefit other individuals. The fact that our beneficiary may want the distribution to be approved may not be sufficient to characterize it as a benefit to him or her; if not, then we have to say “no.”
Others factors that we must take into account include—
- the size of the trust;
- whether there are enough funds to meet other present and future needs;
- any other financial resources available to provide the support;
- other rules and limits imposed by MassHealth or SSI;
- any clinical recommendations as to the particular needs of the individual;
- input from care providers, family members and interested parties.
Denial of distributions is a rare occurrence. If there is a question or concern, we will contact the beneficiary or responsible party and learn more about the circumstances. Most of the time these interactions are short, simple and agreeable. Some can be longer and more complicated. If we have to decline a distribution, almost always we are able to explain our reasoning and preserve a good relationship, even when we can’t do as requested.
What Can a Disability Trust Pay for?
Below is a representative list of the kinds of support that a trust can pay for:
- Recreational and social activities
- Bedside telephone and cable TV
- Chair car and other transportation
- Companionship visits and support
- Fiduciary, social work and legal expenses
- Denture replacement and non-medical dental care
For a more comprehensive list of the kinds of support that a trust can provide, please go to Uses of Disability Trusts.