SPECIAL NEEDS TRUSTS
A TOOL FOR HELPING
PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
Nancy P. Gibson
Attorney at Law
700 SW Higgins Missoula MT 59803
Special Needs Trusts, also called Supplemental Needs Trusts, are trusts designed to
provide assets for the care and comfort of beneficiaries who are disabled without jeopardizing
their access to programs, funds and/or medical benefits that may be available to them. The cost
of care for such persons can be prohibitive and is simply out of reach for most people to afford
privately. Because many government-funded programs in the United States today provide
substantial benefits, and in many cases are the only available programs for persons with
disabilities, access to these services is critical. However, the requirements for qualifying for these
benefits often thwart the efforts of families to provide support to their loved ones with
To qualify for government benefits, an individual must meet the definition of “disabled.”
A person who is disabled, according to the Social Security Administration, is a person who is
over the age of 65, blind or unable to do any substantial gainful activity due to physical or mental
impairments that will result in death or will continue for not less than one year. 42 U.S.C. §
423(d) (1) (A). “Substantial gainful activity” is the ability to do work that produces earnings.
“Physical or mental impairments” are disabilities that appear on the Social Security
Administration Listing of Impairments.
Once a disability is established, the type of benefit available will depend on additional
criteria. Some programs, such as Social Security, base the benefit on the earnings of the worker
prior to her disability or retirement. Some benefits are entitlements, such as Medicare, which is
available to all people who have attained age 65. Other programs measure the current income
and resources of the disabled person to establish eligibility. Supplemental Security Income and
Medicaid are two such “means-based” programs. In order to access these benefits, the recipient
must not only be aged, sick and/or unable to work, but also poor. If significant assets become
available to the recipient, the benefits will be curtailed until those assets are used up. When the
excess assets are gone, the recipient can reapply for the benefits.
Government benefits for persons who are disabled include cash payments and health
care. Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Income provide cash for
these individuals. For many people, this is the only cash that they receive. They are too sick, too
weak, or too old to access any other forms of cash. The major government health care programs
are Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare provides coverage for acute care, such as hospitalization,
and some rehabilitation, but it does not cover the cost of prescriptions or the cost of long term
custodial care. Medicare recipients may also have access to private health insurance, which often
pays for prescriptions and doctor visits. However, most health insurance policies will not cover
long term custodial care. Long term care insurance will pay for custodial care, but it is not
available for someone who is already disabled. Medicaid is the only government program in the
United States that provides for long term skilled nursing care for persons with disabilities other
than the Veterans Administration. Medicaid pays for prescriptions, therapy, and doctor visits as
well as custodial care.
Families who are planning for a family member who is disabled know how critical these
benefits are. In the past, families would either intentionally disinherit the loved one or attempt to
create oral trusts or other arrangements with surviving family members. These methods often had
heart breaking and cruel results or were ineffective or fraudulent. On the other hand, many
families could not bring themselves to disinherit their loved one. As a result, the beneficiary who
is disabled would receive a share of the estate outright, and lose his or her government benefits
until the inheritance was used up. Planning with Special Needs Trusts can solve this dilemma.
Some disabilities are the result of someone else‟s negligence. In these cases, the person
with disabilities may recover money damages. However, the injured person may require lifetime
assistance at enormous cost, which may be well beyond the amount of the recovery. Treatment
of the injury necessitates government-provided benefits. Therefore, even though a recovery may
provide substantial assets, the recovery can put these benefits at risk. Planning with Special
Needs Trusts can solve this dilemma.
II. HOW GOVERNMENT BEXEFITS SYSTEMS WORK
A. The Basics
Planning for beneficiaries who are disabled requires a basic understanding of how
government benefits systems work. These programs together disperse benefits to millions of
people in the United States every month. Yet, most people, as well as lawyers, do not have a
grasp of the features and the distinctions among them. The names of the programs are very
similar, which makes it more confusing. While access to the means-based programs requires
special planning, it is important to know how other programs interrelate and in some cases
complement the means-based programs. To help in that understanding, attached are two simple
charts to illustrate and compare three programs provided through Social Security and Medicare
B. Means-Based Programs
The Supplemental Security Income (SSD system provides the rationale at the federal
level for Medicaid, even though the benefits under the two systems are quite distinct. SSI
provides minimal cash payments each month that are designated to provide for food, clothing or
shelter. Briefly, in order to maintain eligibility for SSI, a recipient cannot receive unearned
income from any source in excess of $552.00 per month. Income, according to the SSI rules, is
anything that “comes in” to the recipient in any month. At the end of the month, income that is
not used up converts to a resource. Thus, a resource is accumulated income. An SSI recipient
may not own resources that are available to be spent on food, clothing, or shelter in excess of
$2000.00. Income and resources are measured independently.
Some income and some resources are exempt from the eligibility calculations. Non-
countable income includes other means-based payments such as food stamps, medical care and
services, income tax refunds, loans, and any item that if retained would not be a countable
resource. Exempt resources include the personal residence of the recipient, regardless of value;
one vehicle, if it is needed to provide transportation; household contents such as computers,
electronics, physical training equipment, hot tubs and ordinary furnishings for living; life
insurance with a face value of less than $1500.00 and irrevocable burial plans. Thus a person
who owns a $ 500,000 house, a $ 60,000 specially-outfitted van, whose life is insured by a $2
million term life insurance policy, and who has limited income, could qualify for SSI.
But why is this significant? The government-provided cash benefit under SSI is paltry.
The amount of the SSJ benefit is so small that maintaining SSJ eligibility hardly seems to be a
worthy goal. The prize that makes the quest worth pursuing is Medicaid. For many disabled
individuals, SSI provides the gateway to the substantial medical benefits of Medicaid. As the
charts demonstrate, no other government benefit provides long term medical care, including the
cost of prescriptions. In most states, including New Mexico, eligibility for SSI categorically
results in Medicaid eligibility. Therefore, observing the qualification criteria for SSI will enable
a beneficiary to receive medical care that she may not be able to obtain from any other source.
III. REQUIREMENTS OF SPECIAL NEEDS TRUSTS
A properly drafted Special Needs Trust will preserve assets for the benefit of a person
who is disabled so that she can obtain government benefits, and have additional comforts,
enjoyment, education, entertainment and medical care not otherwise provided by the government
programs. A Special Needs Trust must be written and its terms express. The trust document will
be reviewed by the Social Security Administration and Medicaid. All distributions of income
and/or principal must be in the discretion of the trustee. The beneficiary cannot be entitled to
receive income or principal. The Trustee should be prohibited from making any distribution that
would jeopardize the recipient‟s benefits. The Special Needs Trust can delineate those items or
categories for which distributions are proper. Distributions for support, food, clothing or shelter
would affect SSI eligibility. The trust document can describe in detail permissible distributions,
such as recreation, travel, entertainment, medical care not otherwise provided such as hearing
aids, glasses or personal companions and aids.
The individual who is disabled must be the sole beneficiary of the trust during his or her
lifetime. However, the Special Needs Trust can provide compensation for caregivers and pay for
the cost of travel for a caregiver to accompany the individual with disabilities, even if the
caregiver is a family member.
A Special Needs Trust must be irrevocable. However, some disabilities that are caused
by accidents or mental conditions that may be improved with medication may improve or end.
Therefore, a Special Needs Trust can provide for discretionary distributions of income or
principal as long as the beneficiary is not receiving government benefits. Careful drafting can
provide flexibility within the trust documents to allow for changed circumstances. The terms of
the trust should always allow the trustee to reform the trust to protect eligibility for benefits.
A. Third Party Trusts
A third party-settled trust is a trust funded with assets provided by a person other than the
beneficiary. This can be done either in a living (or “inter-vivos”) trust or a testamentary trust,
which is established in a will. A third party-settled Special Needs Trust can provide that the
remaining trust assets be distributed to the chosen remainder beneficiaries of the grantor at the
death of the beneficiary, and thus be preserved for future beneficiaries.
B. Self-Settled Trusts
In 1993, Congress provided in 42. U.S.C. § l396p that a person could not attain
Medicaid eligibility by transferring her own assets to an inter vivos trust, even if the trust was
irrevocable and the Medicaid applicant had no further control over the assets, unless the transfer
took place more than 5 years before the Medicaid application. A transfer to the trustee within the
5 year period results in the assets being attributed to the applicant for the period of time that it
takes to use up those assets to pay for the care of the applicant. This “penalty period” can put the
applicant in the worst possible situation, i.e., not having the assets to pay for care, but being
penalized as if the applicant has the assets, and therefore being unable to obtain Medicaid.
Transferring one‟s own assets to a trust as a planning method 5 years in advance of need is only
feasible when the disability can be planned for, such as with a Parkinson‟s patient or an
Alzheimer‟s patient. For persons with disabling conditions, this is not an option. Even if a court
establishes a special needs trust, the assets are attributed to the person who is disabled. However,
under 42 U.S.C. § l396p (d)(4), two types of safe harbor trusts have been created that can relieve
this dilemma for Medicaid eligibility. Transfers of the assets of the disabled person to these
statutory self-settled trusts are exempt from the penalty period.
The first type of trust is provided for in 42 U.S.C. § l396p (d)(4)(A) and is commonly
called a “d4A” trust. Because the d4A trust is funded with the beneficiary‟s own assets, the
statute requires that at the death of the beneficiary or termination of the trust, the remaining
assets in the trust must be used initially to reimburse any state government that provided
Medicaid to the beneficiary during her lifetime. Therefore, this trust can also be called a
“payback trust.” In addition to the payback requirement, the d4A trust must be irrevocable; it can
be created only by a parent, grandparent, court or guardian; and the beneficiary who is disabled
must be younger than 65. Further funds cannot be put into the trust after age 65. Anyone other
than the person with disabilities can be the trustee of the trust. The trust can provide that after the
beneficiary‟s death, once Medicaid is reimbursed, the remaining balance of the trust fund can be
distributed to the intended beneficiaries of the person who is disabled.
The second type of safe harbor for a self-settled trust is found in 42 U.S.C. § l396p
(d)(4)(C). In this case, if the person who is disabled transfers her own funds to a non-profit
501(c)(3) organization as trustee, which manages the funds as part of a pooled trust for persons
with disabilities, the transfer is exempt from penalty. In this case, the trust must be irrevocable; it
can be created by the beneficiary as well as by a parent, grandparent, court or guardian; and the
beneficiary may be any age. At the death of the beneficiary, the non-profit organization may
retain a portion of the trust fund. However, Medicaid must be reimbursed from the remaining
funds before the trust can be dispersed to other remainder beneficiaries.
C. The Trustee
Trustees of Special Needs Trusts have the same duties as trustees of other trusts. These
duties include the duty of loyalty, the duty of care of a prudent person, the duty to observe the
terms of the trust agreement, and the duty not to waste or squander the trust assets. However,
trustees of a Special Needs Trust have added responsibilities.
A trustee of a Special Needs Trust must develop a working knowledge of the government
benefits for which the beneficiary is qualified, because the trustee must understand which
distributions are appropriate and which are not. This can mean not making certain distributions,
such as cash to an SSI beneficiary, as well as making other distributions, such as purchasing
plane tickets. A Special Needs Trust trustee must know the long term care plan for the
beneficiary, her life expectancy, and what activities are possible or are reasonable to expect. A
trustee of a Special Needs Trust should be creative in anticipating activities or items that will
enhance the beneficiary‟s life. For example, a beneficiary who is totally physically disabled, and
who requires 24 hour care in a nursing home, but who is not totally mentally disabled, might
enjoy a trip to the zoo or to a play. The cost of such a trip may include the cost of a personal
companion. A Special Needs Trust trustee must understand which distributions would
benefits being received. For example, an SSJ beneficiary receives cash payments that are deemed
to be for the recipient‟s food, clothing, and shelter. The receipt of any additional cash, or any
item that would be “in-kind support and maintenance,” will reduce the SSI benefits. Therefore,
the trustee should not pay the beneficiary‟s rent or buy a coat for the beneficiary, because those
are in kind payments for shelter and clothing. Under some circumstances, it is in the
beneficiaries best interests for distributions to be made that will reduce 551, but this must be
done with careful consideration and in accordance with the terms of the trust.
The SSI program requires periodic reporting for all SSJ recipients. Eligibility will be
denied if the reports are not complete. The existence of the Special Needs Trust must be
reported. Additionally, if the beneficiary changes address, gets married, obtains more resources
or more income, or improves in medical condition, these changes must be reported. The report is
due within 10 days of the month in which the change occurred.
The trustee must respond promptly to any notices received from the Social Security
Administration or from Medicaid. If notice is given of a change in benefits that is detrimental to
the beneficiary, the beneficiary has 60 days in which to file a written notice of an appeal in order
to keep the benefits in place during the appeal process. The trustee cannot ignore or postpone
dealing with the government agency.
As with many types of trusts, a co-trustee of Special Needs Trusts may be advisable If
the trust holds significant assets, a corporate trustee may be beneficial for long term investment
expertise. However, an appropriate a family member can be a co-trustee in order for the day-to-
day needs of the beneficiary to be monitored. Trustees of Special Needs Trusts often need
ongoing legal representation. To the extent possible, the trustee should stay abreast of changes in
the law. I recommend an annual review meeting with the trustee and counsel.
In the United States today, a severe disability brings with it economic peril. A person
who suffers from a severe disability must deal with both the critical medical treatment required
and the possible loss of economic self-sufficiency. Medical care may be extraordinarily
expensive and ongoing. Many disabilities necessitate special housing, transportation and
education. While many private charities provide worthwhile services, the cost of caring for
persons with serious disabilities is borne primarily by the government. However, maintaining
eligibility for government programs often contradicts the efforts of family members to provide
support and care for their loved ones.
Special Needs Trusts provide the mechanism for sheltering resources to benefit family
members who are disabled so that these contradictory efforts can be harmonized. A well-
managed support system, using Special Needs Trusts, can maximize the use of government-
provided services while supporting the family‟s care and enhancing the comfort and enjoyment
of life for the beneficiary who is disabled.
Supplemental Security Income
Cash + Medicaid
No work history
Income cap ($5 64/month in 2004)
THREE SOCIAL SECURITY PROGRAMS
_______________ Social ~~jty Social Security Disability
Cash Cash + Medicare
(After two years)
Work history Work history
Income cap Income cap
($1 1,640/year in ($810/month
2004, if under age 65) in 2004)
Earned income Earned income
No resource cap No resource cap
Earned & unearned income
Resource cap ($2,000.00)
Minimum cash benefit
Food, clothing, shelter
US citizens only
May also have SSDJ
No dependent coverage
Uniform in all states
May not have SSI or SSDI
Uniform in all states
May also have SSI
Financial & Disability
Skilled nursing care;
Intermediate nursing care;
Long term care;
Reimbursement required Yes
Age or Disability
100 days maximum
Premiums and co-pay No
THE LETTER OF INTENT
A Tool for Addressing Your Wishes
And the Needs of Your Special Needs Child
by Nancy P. Gibson1
Every family with a special needs family member should strongly consider establishing a
special needs trust for that individual. That is a legal document that provides specific
directions that must be followed in managing the care and funds of the special needs
individual. Other legal tools, such as a power of attorney document, can also assist in
providing care and assistance for that family member.
A Letter of Intent can be used to plan for the future of a loved one with special needs. A
Letter of Intent is a way to have your voice be heard beyond the time when you are no
longer with your child, and it will supplement and expand upon the directions your legal
A Letter of Intent is a document intended to help the guardian and trustee understand
your hopes and desires for your child. It is not a formal “legal” document, but the others
will look to it for guidance in understanding your child and your wishes.
Even if other children, a family member, or a close friend is willing to take over the
responsibilities for the special needs family member from the parents, problems may
arise because these individuals are not clear about the wishes of the parents, or do not
have sufficient knowledge about the child to feel comfortable with the decisions they
must make. Also, laws and services change over time and the plans made by the parents
may need to be revised for the child to receive maximum benefits from the system.
Through a Letter of Intent, you can share information with professionals and others that
can improve the quality of their work with your child. It will help them understand what
works for your child and what does not work.
„Nancy P. Gibson, Attorney at Law, 700 SW Higgins, Suite 200, Missoula, Montana,
59803. Phone 406-728-3232. Email: ~ibsonlaw(2‟~montana.corn. Ms. Gibson is a member of
the Special Needs Alliance (~~„w.s~ecialneedsailiance.com).
Writing a Letter of Intent forces you to discuss (often for the first time) the many
concerns you have about your child‟s disabilities. Work on the letter when you are not
feeling overwhelmed. You may find that you need to work on portions of the letter over
time or need some help in gathering portions of the document.
This Letter of intent should be updated and added to on a regular basis throughout your
life. You may want to set aside an annual date to review and update your letter. Some
events will require the letter to be changed immediately, such as medication issues.
When you need to make changes, you may only need to rewrite that portion of the letter.
Placing the information on a computer for easy updates is one way to keep the document
current. If you hand write or type your letter, organize it so that information which may
need to be frequently updated is on a separate page from the information (such as family
history, social security number, etc.) that won‟t ever change. You may also separate
information that can easily be shared (educational history, personal preferences, etc.)
from more sensitive information (cash income, life insurance, etc.) Be sure to sign it and
date the Letter of Intent. Place it with your other important papers, such as your child‟s
special needs trust, and let others know of its existence.
The Letter of Intent should be placed with all of the other relevant legal and personal
documents concerning your child. Should anything happen to you, the future guardian
and trustee will have the information that will guide them in understanding your child‟s
unique history and will assist in maintaining the best quality of life for your child.
Here are guidelines for writing a Letter of Intent.
Cover the key areas of your child‟s life. Describe what has happened thus far and express
your desires for the future. Here are suggestions to help you organize your thoughts:
Family member dates of birth, addresses, phone numbers
Friends and relatives that your child knows and likes
Your child‟s date of birth, location
Overview of your child‟s life to date and your thoughts about the
Personality traits and personal preferences
Skills, abilities, and disabilities
Summary of educational experiences and future education plans
Regular classes, special classes, special schools, etc.
Types of educational emphasis (vocational, academic)
Specific programs, schools, teachers Employment
Work opportunities he or she might enjoy
Open employment with supervision, sheltered workshop, activity
Companies that may provide employment in your community
Live with specific relatives?
Other options, i.e. group home in the same community, institution
Specify size of group home or institution
Describe best living arrangements --single room, etc. Social Environment
Social activities your child enjoys
Whether your child should have personal spending money and how he or she
should spend it
Favorite foods, eating habits, needs for assistance with meal preparation or eating,
Does your child usually have annual vacations with relatives, friends, church or
Specify religion, if any
Specify local church or synagogue
Local ministers, priests, rabbis that are familiar with your child
Request that your child participate in church services and other
activities (if desired)
Medical conditions and diagnoses
Location of medical records
Current medication needs
Discuss drugs that have/have not worked in the past
Describe your feelings about drug therapy programs.
Allergies, medical conditions/considerations
Describe your child‟s current behavior management program, and
other behavior management programs that have been tried
Describe your desires for your child‟s final arrangements and
include information about:
Choice of funeral home
Cremation or burial
Church service (memorial service)
Include any other information that you feel will help future care providers
give the best possible care and supervision. Does your child have
preferences for colors, music, sleeping late, etc. What brings your child
happiness or pleasure?
Don‟t worry about your writing skills. Focus more on the content than the way you write
it. This is a way to let people know what your child needs to succeed, and to share your
concerns for his or her future.
A Futures and
Guide for Parents
of Children and
YLANDDEV ELOPMENTALDIS ABiLITIESCOU NCIL
Planning Questions Appendix E
This is a list of guiding questions covering an array of life issues. The appropriateness of each question will depend
on things like your child‟s age, the impact of his or her disability on independence arid decision-making, and other
Considering these questions will help you and your child think about what he or she wants and needs in the future.
From there you can plan how to maximize the likelihood that these wants and needs are met. Your answers to the
questions, and the goals that result, should guide you as you write your will and letter of intent, establish a trust (if
desired), plan your finances, apply for services and benefits, and assist your child in other ways.
The questions are a starting point to focus your thinking. Your answers are the foundation of your plan. And wills,
trusts, and the other tools discussed in this guide are the means to an end the establishment of the life you and your
child want, with the supports that are needed.
You don‟t have to write down the answers to all of these questions. Use them to guide discussions with your child,
family and other important people in your lives. Include what seems most important in your letter of intent. This
information will also help you plan with an attorney, financial planner, arid other professionals.
1. What are my child‟s short and long term goals and dreams?
2. What are my, and my family‟s, wishes for my child (in the near and distant future)?
3. Can my child take care of himself/herself? What does he/she need assistance with? What kind of assistance and
how much? What is the best way to provide the assistance? Can my child handle his/her own finances?
4. Does my child need assistance with decision-making? What types of decisions?
5. What do we want and need regarding the following things:
a. A place to live: What kind of living arrangement? Roommates? If so, what kind of roommate is important?
(e.g., shares interests or keeps to self; neat; active)
b. Work or other meaningful, productive daytime activity: Are there interests and skills that my child has
that should guide this decision? Training or education needed?
c. Opportunities to develop friendships and relationships.
d. Health care, dental care and therapies.
e. Equipment and assistive technology: Consider future replacement and upgrading needs for things like
communication devices, wheelchairs, lift equipment. If our insurance covers these things now, will it when
my child becomes an adult and moves out? If my child is, or later becomes, eligible for Medicaid or
Medicare, will they cover these costs?
f. Other supports and services (e.g., behavioral support).
g. Recreational and leisure activities; vacations.
h. Social and religious activities; Other interests arid activities my child would like to pursue.
1. Transportation: In many areas of Maryland, public transportation cannot meet the needs of people with
disabilities. Do we need to budget for transportation costs?
6. Will the impact of my child‟s disability change over time, necessitating additional or different services and
supports? A degenerative physical disability, for example, could lead to a person who walks how and takes care
of his personal needs requiring a wheelchair and personal assistance in the future, as well as accessibility
modifications to his home.
7. What supports and services will be needed to make these things possible?
8. Who are the important people in my child‟s life? (e.g., family members, friends, neighbors, church/synagogue
affiliations) What roles do they play now, and what support will they play in my child‟s life in the future? (e.g.,
advocacy, service monitoring, emotional support, assistance with activities like shopping or budgeting, or social
9. What supports and services will be needed from service provider agencies? What type agency would best meet
my child‟s needs and would provide services the way we want?
10. If our ideal plan can‟t be implemented for some reason, what are the most important things?
11. What public benefits is my child eligible for now or will likely be eligible for in the future? Which of my
child‟s needs will these benefits assist with?
12. What estimated costs related to the wishes and goals we have identified will likely not be covered by
government benefits like SSI or Medicaid, insurance, or state programs like the Developmental Disabilities
Administration and Division of Rehabilitation Services?
13. What other assets does my child have to plan with (or might be expected in the future)? For example,
inheritance, insurance proceeds, lawsuit settlement, SSDI benefits once parent retires.
14. What financial assets do I have to plan with for the benefit of my child?
15. What other information is important for us to consider?
The Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council encourages you to copy and share the
information in Planning Now: A Futures and Estate Planning Guide for Parents of Children and Adults
with Developmental Disabilities.
We ask that you credit the Council.
Please refer families to the Council for additional copies.
Printed: July 1999
MARYLAND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES COUNCIL
300 W. LEXINGTON STREET, Box 10 / BALTIMORE, MARYLAND 21201
410-333-3688 / 800-305-6441
711 OR 800-735-2258 (MD RELAY)
NANCY P. GIBSON
Attorney at Law
700 S.W. Higgins, Suite 200 Missoula, MT. 59803
Fax (406) 829-2739
Telephone (406) 728-3232
Nancy Gibson has been practicing law in Missoula, Montana since 1985. She attained her
undergraduate and law degrees at The University of Montana. She spent the first nine years after
her admission to the Montana bar with a Missoula litigation firm specializing in settlement,
defense and trial of civil cases.
In 1994, Ms. Gibson opened her law office in Missoula, Montana. Since then, Ms. Gibson has
worked locally, state-wide, and nationally to address legal issues of the elderly and persons with
She served as chair of the Elderly Assistance Committee of the State Bar of Montana from 1998
to 2003. She is actively involved with the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. She served
as Co-Chair of the Health Care Decision-Making Special Interest Group of the National
Academy of Elder Law Attorneys from 2001 to 2002.
Ms. Gibson is the only Montana member of the Special Needs Alliance, a nationwide network of
disability law attorneys who specialize in special needs trusts. Members of the Alliance assist
injured persons receiving a settlement or award to preserve eligibility for government benefits,
and also assist families in providing for loved ones with disabilities. Every year, she attends
several national conferences and meetings that provide cutting-edge information on the best
means of accomplishing these goals.
Over the years Ms. Gibson has served Western Montana through board positions and steering
committee involvement for a number of non-profit organizations. She serves as a legal consultant
for various non-profit agencies providing health care and aging services within Montana. She
often speaks to professional groups and local communities on elder law, health care decision-
making, and special needs trusts.
Ms. Gibson provides legal services to clients who live throughout Montana through her
specialization in elder and disability law. Her practice includes preparation of wills and trusts,
including special needs trusts; assisting clients with asset preservation and long term care issues,
including Medicaid issues; advising clients on public benefits eligibility, particularly in the
context of settlements and inheritances; administration of estates and trusts; guardianship;
conservatorship, and other protective arrangements. She takes pride in assisting people of all
income and asset levels, and enjoys helping families to best provide for the future care of their
elderly and disabled loved ones.