There are times where beneficiaries are unable to travel due to not having the appropriate assistance to deal with all the factors associated with attending special events or going on a vacation (includes international travel, cruise, etc.) that they have always wanted to go on. When a beneficiary would like to travel, but cannot do so alone, he/she will ask the Trustee, CPT, to use the special needs trust to pay for his/her companion so that he/she can travel without worry, elevated stress, and can travel with safety.
In regards to a First-Party Special Needs Trust, the only issue that could arise is if the distribution does not violate the “sole benefit” rule. A First-Party Special Needs Trust cannot pay for a third party to travel simply because the beneficiary wants him/her to. If a companion or caregiver is asked to travel with the beneficiary for assisting with the beneficiary’s safety and will be providing care during the travel time, then the distribution is considered “sole benefit” for the beneficiary.
More than likely the trustee, CPT, will ask for proper documentation to support that the caregiver or companion is needed for the well-being and safety of the beneficiary. A note or document from a medical professional on behalf of the beneficiary is requested stating that a companion or caregiver is needed to travel with the beneficiary. There will be no risk to the beneficiary’s public benefits.
Source/Resource: Urbatsch, K., & Fuller, M. (2016). Administering the California special needs trust: A guide for trustees and those who advise them (2nd ed.). Bloomington, IN: IUniverse.
William E. Lindahl, MBA, CLPF