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What is a Special Needs Trust?

Also known as a Supplemental Needs Trust, the purpose of a Special Needs Trust is to provide a means of supplemental support to enhance the quality of life for a person receiving government assistance, without jeopardizing the benefits he or she receives. A Special Needs Trust can be a private trust drafted by an attorney, or a pooled trust wherein a single “Master Trust Agreement” is used to serve many individuals. Both private and pooled trusts must be drafted so that the trust is irrevocable, and that available funds are used only for the sole benefit of the beneficiary

Administration of a Special Needs Trust must follow strict guidelines set forth by state and federal agencies in order to maintain eligibility for public benefits for the beneficiary of the trust. This applies to both pooled and private trusts. For direct links to more information about the specific rules and regulations that govern trusts, visit our resources page.

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What is a Pooled Trust?

A pooled trust, also known as a “(d)(4)(c) trust,” is a trust in which funds deposited by all beneficiaries are pooled for investment and trust management purposes. However, each beneficiary has his or her own sub-account, which is individually monitored and managed. A pooled trust may only be established and administered by a non-profit organization.

The Oregon Special Needs Trust is the oldest, largest, and only Oregon-based pooled trust in Oregon. The OSNT has been approved by the Social Security Administration and the State of Oregon Department of Human Services as a qualified pooled trust that may be used to protect benefits of people with disabilities who might otherwise lose benefits based on assets exceeding $2,000.

Who is eligible for an OSNT account?

The OSNT is open to any Oregon resident with a disability (as defined by Social Security), regardless of the nature of the disability. This includes people who have a disability, but do not receive government benefits.

Is the OSNT right for me?

The OSNT may not be appropriate for everyone. We strongly encourage all prospective beneficiaries and/or their representatives to consult with an attorney, tax adviser, case manager, and/or other advisers before enrolling in the OSNT. We also require a personal consultation with the OSNT Program Manager to assess your situation and determine which path is right for you. Some things to consider when thinking about establishing a sub-account are:


In addition to the enrollment fee and potential legal fees for initial enrollment, ongoing maintenance and administration fees are charged each year. This means that there may be more efficient ways to spend small amounts of money in the best interest of the qualified person. Visit our Fee Schedule page for more information.


Funds deposited into a trust account become the property of the Trust and all disbursement requests are approved or denied at the sole discretion of the OSNT. While our goal is to support our beneficiaries to reach their goals and dreams, we also must assure compliance with the local, state and federal guidelines that govern the use of funds from a special needs trust. Visit our Disbursement Process page for more information on allowable expenses and how requests are reviewed for payment.


Once a sub-account is established, the funds cannot be withdrawn, nor can the terms of the agreement establishing the sub-account be amended, altered or revoked. Funds from a pooled trust may not be transferred to a private trust, but may be transferred to another pooled trust only if the beneficiary permanently relocates to another state.

The Beneficiary and their representatives are solely responsible for determining whether this trust meets the needs of the individual. Because our knowledge of the circumstances of any particular individual is very limited, we cannot determine if the OSNT represents the optimal solution for a particular person. However, if upon reviewing the enrollment materials we feel that a sub-account is not in the best interests of the beneficiary, we may seek further information before accepting the beneficiary’s account into the trust.

What happens to money left in the account when the Beneficiary dies?

By law, and through a Memo of Understanding with the State of Oregon, fifty percent of the remaining funds in a beneficiary-funded account will be retained by the pooled trust and used for the benefit of other beneficiaries and people with disabilities through our Remainder Fund Grant ProgramThe remaining funds will be made available to satisfy any claim the State makes for Medicaid benefits provided over the beneficiary’s lifetime.

If there are any funds remaining after satisfying the Medicaid payback rules, then those funds will be distributed to the remainder beneficiaries as noted on the Joinder Agreement.

For donor-funded accounts, no funds are retained by the trust or used to pay Medicaid or other claims. All remainder funds will be distributed to remainder beneficiaries as noted on the Joinder Agreement.

What are the alternatives to a pooled trust?

There are a limited number of options for people with disabilities who want to save more than the maximum allowable $2,000 in assets. 

  • One option is to establish a private special needs trust. Establishing a private trust with a bank or other financial institution typically requires significant assets, and those institutions do not often have the knowledge and experience necessary to support people with disabilities. A family member or close friend could be appointed as the trustee instead of a bank or professional trustee without the minimum asset requirement, but family members often find it difficult to navigate the complexities of maintaining compliance with the rules governing special needs trust administration. Whichever option is chosen, an attorney must be hired to draft the trust document.
  • Another option is an ABLE Account. Visit our ABLE Account page to learn more about how it compares to the OSNT.

Ready to learn more?

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