If you are the parent of a child requiring ongoing care as a result of a disability, planning for their care in the event of your death is a major issue. One of the vehicles that can help manage their financial well being is a Special Disability Trust.This structure allows you to nominate a person (or more than one person) to act as trustee and manage the financial affairs of your child. The trust is allowed to invest the funds for the purpose of paying for the care and accommodation of the principal beneficiary – your child. This may include purchasing and owning a suitable property for them to live in.
There are significant Centrelink concessions available with these arrangements. Firstly, assets up to $563,250 (indexed each year) are exempt from the assets test, and if a property is owned by the trust and used as the beneficiaries home, this is also exempt. In addition to this, Centrelink does not assess any income or distributions from a Special Disability Trust. These concessions may not be not available to beneficiaries of a normal trust (family/discretionary trust, testamentary trust), and may mean you can leave significant levels of assets for the care of your child and they can still be entitled to government assistance.
For parents above Age Pension age, there is also the opportunity to gift funds to a Special Disability Trust. Ordinarily Centrelink would regard any gift above $10,000 in a financial year ($30,000 over a rolling five years) as an attempt to deprive yourself of assets to increase your pension entitlements, and accordingly they would continue to assess these gifts as your assets. In the case of gifts by eligible family members however, up to $500,000 (combined) can be gifted to a Special Disability Trust for the care of your child and Centrelink would no longer count this as your asset. This could potentially make you eligible for Centrelink Benefits, or increase your entitlement to them.
There are a number of conditions that must be met to receive these concessions, and this article just provides a broad overview.