Glossary: Terms You May Encounter


The individual for whose benefit a trust is established. Trust assets must be used according to the terms of the trust for the benefit of the beneficiary.


See Guardian.

Countable Resources

Financial assets that are considered in the resource assessment for means-tested benefits, and that are subject to resource limits.

Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)

See Social Security Disability.

Disabled Adult Child (DAC)

See Social Security Disability.


Payment from a trust.

Exempt resources

Resources that are not considered as a financial asset available to the individual when determining his or her eligibility for means-tested benefit programs. See Countable resources.


A person who has a position of responsibility and a duty to act on behalf of another individual regarding financial matters; a financial agent for another. Includes an attorney-in-fact (an individual granted authority through a power of attorney), custodian, guardian, and/or trustee.  Someone acting as a fiduciary for another individual must act in the best interests of that individual, without regard to the fiduciary's own interests.


An individual who is appointed by a court to act for another individual, who is either a minor or an adult incapable of acting on his or her own behalf, with respect to financial and/or personal matters (such as health care decision- making). The authority of the guardian is determined by the court, which will maintain ongoing supervision of the guardianship.

Life care plan

An evolving assessment of an injured person's needs and the projected costs of needed goods and services over a lifetime.

Means-tested programs

Programs, like SSI and Medicaid, that have eligibility limits for income and financial assets.


A state/federal means-tested health insurance program administered by the states. Benefits may be broader than those of commercial insurance programs and include such items as prescription medication, transportation, and home-based services.

Medicaid Payback Trust

See Special Needs Trust.


Federal health insurance program for those who have contributed to the Social Security System and are over 65, or who have been disabled for over two years. Widows or widowers and children disabled before age 22 also may qualify for Medicare benefits. There are exceptions to the two-year waiting period for persons disabled by end-stage renal disease, black lung disease, and other conditions.

Needs-based programs

See Means-tested programs.

Past-due benefits

A lump-sum an individual receives from the government representing accumulated benefits that the individual was entitled to, but did not receive. Individuals who are receiving means-tested benefits, such as SSI or Medicaid, will have a limited to time to spend these funds before the lump-sum is considered as a countable resource.

Pooled Trust

A form of Special Needs Trust that is managed by a nonprofit organization. Although each beneficiary has a separate account, trust assets are pooled for investment and management of funds. The payback requirement is waived to the extent that assets in the trust are left in the trust upon the beneficiary's death.

Probate court

In some jurisdictions, the division of the county court system which has authority over matters such as the administration and settlement of estates and guardianship.


An out-of-court agreement on the terms for resolving a dispute between the parties in a lawsuit (or potential lawsuit).

Social Security Disability (SSD)

A federal income program administered by the Social Security Administration. To be eligible, an individual must be blind or disabled, and must have worked for a required number of quarters under the Social Security System. Benefits may also be available to the spouse and minor children of a disabled worker or to the disabled or elderly widow or widower of a deceased child and an adult child who became disabled before the age of 22. Individuals with minimal Social Security Disability income and limited resources may also qualify for SSI. Social Security Disability is also referred to as Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), Title II, or Disabled Adult Child (DAC).

Special Needs Trust

A special type of trust established for the benefit of a disabled person. It is considered as an exempt resource for means-tested benefit eligibility purposes. See also Pooled trust.

Structured settlement

Compensation for a personal injury claim where at least part of the settlement is paid over time, rather than with a single lump sum. In lieu of receiving all monies up front, the claimant receives instead a promise from some entity to make future payments according to an agreed upon schedule. Refer to the Financial Planning section of this site for details.


Substitution of the right to payment. When an insurance contract has a subrogation clause, the insurance company has the right to repayment if the injured party later receives compensation for the same care or services that the insurance company paid for.

Supplemental needs

Items or services that are not necessities of life such as food, shelter, and clothing.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

A means-tested program administered by the Social Security Administration and the states, which provides a minimal level of income to individuals who are 65 or older, legally blind, or have a long-term disability that prevents the individual from being able to engage in substantial gainful employment.

Title II

See Social Security Disability


A legal contract established by a donor or settlor to hold assets in the name of a trustee (which can be an individual or financial entity) for the benefit of one or more individuals. See also Special Needs Trust and Pooled trust.


The individual(s) or entities that have the responsibility for administering a trust. The trustee has legal title to trust assets, but must use the funds only for the benefit of the beneficiary or beneficiaries named in the trust.


A person who has been found to be incapacitated by the court and has had a guardian appointed.

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