How to Use Your Special Needs Trust

Basics about Using Special Needs Trust Money

Money from a special needs trust can be used for many things government benefits don't cover. That's one of the reasons why families or individuals set them up. Special needs trusts also come with rules about how they can and can't be used.

But using your trust money is not just about what's allowed or not. Making good choices about how to use money is also important.

Your Primary Representative Will Help You

Every special needs trust from The Arc of Northern Virginia names a primary representative.  That's the person who works with the beneficiary to help manage the trust money. The primary representative (PR, for short) knows your budget and what you can afford. The PR also knows what kinds of things are right for you to buy or pay for. When you and the PR have agreed on something to buy, the PR starts the payment process. Getting money from your special needs trust is called disbursement.

There are two ways to use money from your trust

  • One way is to have your primary representative buy something and get paid back. Here are the steps.
  • The other way is to plan to buy something and get money in advance. Your primary representative needs to get the payment approved first. Here are the steps.

Money from your special needs trust may be spent on these kinds of things:

  • Clothing, furniture, TVs, electronics
  • Sports, movies, clubs, subscriptions
  • Vacations and travel costs
  • Tuition, books, conferences
  • Eyeglasses and contacts
  • Dental care, hair care
  • Respite care, taxes, legal fees
  • Buying and maintaining a car or truck
  • Plus more. Please contact us for questions.

Disbursements: Using Special Needs Trust Money

There are several ways to use money from a trust. Each of the topics listed is explained in detail below

Pay a Provider Directly

If you have a cell phone bill, cable bill, dental bill, you can pay those vendors/providers directly.

Recurring Payments

Do you have a monthly, quarterly, or annual bill that needs to be paid? You can set up a recurring disbursement payment.

Buy a Vehicle

Doing this right means getting approval from the trust manager first. 

Pay First, Get a Refund

See how to get money back for a payment or purchase using the disbursement request form.

Get a True Link Card

This card is like a credit card but with special limits.

Buy a Home

Please speak with the trust team and get approval from us before considering purchasing a home.

Ask For Money in Advance

See how to plan for future purchases and payments using the disbursement request form.

Use a Credit Card

The Arc of Northern Virginia can make a purchase for a beneficiary who doesn't have a credit card.

Pay For a Vacation

Air and rail tickets, hotel rooms and more are allowed expenses.

Pay a Provider Directly

The trust program prefers to pay providers directly. This helps minimize the impact on the beneficiary's government benefits. The primary representative (PR) may:

  1. Fill out a disbursement request form. Download a disbursement request form
  2. Print or scan the form.
  3. Attach or scan bill or invoice to go with the form.
  4. Send the form and paperwork to The Arc of Northern Virginia office.
    Any of these ways is fine:
    --Email the form and receipts to TNsabimana@thearcofnova.org.
    --Fax the form and receipts to (703) 208-0906
    --Mail or drop off the form and receipts. Our office is at 2755 Hartland Road, Suite 200, Falls Church, VA 22043

Staff at The Arc of Northern Virginia review the payment request. If anything is missing or not filled out right, the Account Manager will let you know.

Payment takes about two weeks.

Double-Check Your Requests

Primary representatives submit requests for payments. Payments go smoothly when

  • The disbursement request form is filled out and signed.
  • Receipts, invoices and other paperwork are attached.
  • Purchases are allowed by the trust agreement.
  • Purchases are allowed by government benefits rules.
  • Purchases are only for the trust beneficiary.

Need help?

Get in touch with Trini Nsabimana, our trusts account manager, by email or at (703) 208-1119 ext. 119.

Pay First and Get a Refund

Your primary representative (PR) can buy something for you and get paid back from the trust.  To do that, your PR will:

  1. Buy or pay for something for you.
  2. Save the receipt and any other paperwork needed to prove it was a valid expense.
  3. Fill out a disbursement request form. Download a disbursement request form
  4. Print or scan the form.
  5. Attach or scan receipts or other paperwork to go with the form.
  6. Send the form and paperwork to The Arc of Northern Virginia office.
    Any of these ways is fine:
    --Email the form and receipts to TNsabimana@thearcofnova.org.
    --Fax the form and receipts to (703) 208-0906
    --Mail or drop off the form and receipts. Our office is at 2755 Hartland Road, Suite 200, Falls Church, VA 22043

Staff at The Arc of Northern Virginia review the payment request. If anything is missing or not filled out right, the Account Manager will let you know.

Payment takes about two weeks.

Double-Check Your Requests

Primary representatives submit requests for refunds after you buy something. Payments go smoothly when

  • The disbursement request form is filled out and signed.
  • Receipts, invoices and other paperwork are attached.
  • Purchases are allowed by the trust agreement.
  • Purchases are allowed by government benefits rules.
  • Purchases are only for the trust beneficiary.

Need help?

Get in touch with Trini Nsabimana, our trusts account manager, by email or at (703) 208-1119 ext. 119.

Ask For Money In Advance

The primary representative (PR) can request money to buy something for you in advance. To do that, your PR will:

  1. Plan to buy or pay for something for you.
  2. Fill out a disbursement request form. Download a disbursement request form
  3. Print or scan the form.
  4. Attach or scan a Training Invoice or a description/link of something you want to buy.
  5. Send the form and paperwork to The Arc of Northern Virginia office.
    Any of these ways is fine:
    --Email the form and receipts to TNsabimana@thearcofnova.org.
    --Fax the form and receipts to (703) 208-0906
    --Mail or drop off the form and receipts. Our office is at 2755 Hartland Road, Suite 200, Falls Church, VA 22043

Staff at The Arc of Northern Virginia review the payment request. If anything is missing or not filled out right, the Account Manager will let you know.

Payment will take about two weeks.

Double-Check Your Requests

Primary representatives submit requests for payments in advance. Payments go smoothly when

  • The disbursement request form is filled out and signed.
  • Receipts, invoices and other paperwork are attached.
  • Purchases are allowed by the trust agreement.
  • Purchases are allowed by government benefits rules.
  • Purchases are only for the trust beneficiary.

Need help?

Get in touch with our trust Account Manager, by email or at (703) 208-1119 ext. 119.

Recurring Payment

Do you have a bill that you need to pay every month, year, or on a regular basis? This can include a phone bill, a dental bill, or even car insurance. To do so, the PR may:

  1. Fill out a recurring disbursement request form. You just need to do this once. Download a recurring disbursement form
  2. Print or scan the form.
  3. Attach or scan invoices/bills to go with the form.
  4. Contact your vendor to change the billing address to The Arc of Northern Virginia. Keep your name on the bill.
  5. Send the form and paperwork to The Arc of Northern Virginia office.
    Any of these ways is fine:
    --Email the form and receipts to TNsabimana@thearcofnova.org.
    --Fax the form and receipts to (703) 208-0906
    --Mail or drop off the form and receipts. Our office is at 2755 Hartland Road, Suite 200, Falls Church, VA 22043

If anything is missing or not filled out right, the Account Manager will let you know.

The process of setting up recurring payments may take about two weeks. Sometimes, changing the billing address may take 1 billing cycle.

Double-Check Your Requests

Primary representatives submit requests for payments before you can use a credit card. Payments go smoothly when

  • The disbursement request form is filled out and signed.
  • Receipts, invoices and other paperwork are attached.
  • Purchases are allowed by the trust agreement.
  • Purchases are allowed by government benefits rules.
  • Purchases are only for the trust beneficiary.

Need help?

Get in touch with Trini Nsabimana, our trusts account manager, by email or at (703) 208-1119 ext. 119.

Get a True Link Card

The primary representative can request the trust team to order a TrueLink card. This card is a reloaded credit card that allows the trust team to deposit money for you to use. There may be certain limitations on how you can use the card, for example, food and rent.

Download the True Link card agreement

  1. The PR should contact the Account Manager to order the card.
  2. We may ask for a Trust Plan or a budget to be completed if they are not already do so.
  3. The Account Manager and the PR will agree on a specific amount to be loaded onto the card.
  4. The Account Manager orders the card (this may take a few weeks).
  5. The Account Manager activates the card and mails it to the PR.
  6. The PR can take the Beneficiary shopping for agreed upon items in the budget.
  7. The PR must send receipts at the end of the month or after the purchase.
  8. After the Account Manager reviews the receipts, the TrueLink card may then be reloaded for next time.

If anything is missing or not filled out right, the Account Manager will let you know.

Need help?

Get in touch with Trini Nsabimana, our trusts account manager, by email or at (703) 208-1119 ext. 119.

Use a Credit Card

A credit card is handy for buying things online, making travel reservations, and taking care of emergency needs. If needed, our Trust Department can make credit card purchases for our trust clients.

Here's how it works. The primary representative (PR) should:

  1. Research the purchase to get information and total cost.
  2. Fill out a disbursement request form. The form needs to make the payee "Foundation of the Arc of Northern Virginia." The payee address is "2755 Hartland Road, Suite 200, Falls Church, VA 22043"  Download a disbursement request form
  3. Print or scan the form.
  4. Attach or scan bills, invoices, estimates, or other paperwork to go with the form. Note deadlines or other important information.
  5. Send the form and paperwork to The Arc of Northern Virginia office.
    Any of these ways is fine:
    --Email the form and receipts to TNsabimana@thearcofnova.org.
    --Fax the form and receipts to (703) 208-0906
    --Mail or drop off the form and receipts. Our office is at 2755 Hartland Road, Suite 200, Falls Church, VA 22043
  6. Staff at The Arc of Northern Virginia review the payment request. If anything is missing or not filled out right, the Account Manager will let you know.
  7. The Trust Department will wait till the request is approved and the check is written.
  8. When the Trust Department gets the check, the Account Manager will make the credit card purchase for you.

The process of requesting and making the credit card payment takes about two weeks.

Double-Check Your Requests

Primary representatives submit requests for payments before you can use a credit card. Payments go smoothly when

  • The disbursement request form is filled out and signed.
  • Receipts, invoices and other paperwork are attached.
  • Purchases are allowed by the trust agreement.
  • Purchases are allowed by government benefits rules.
  • Purchases are only for the trust beneficiary.

Need help?

Get in touch with Trini Nsabimana, our trusts account manager, by email or at (703) 208-1119 ext. 119.

Buy a Vehicle

Buying a car may require additional information and communication with the Trust Department. If you are thinking of using your trust to buy a car, please contact the Trust Department as soon as possible.

The PR must send the Account Manager information about the car. We may ask for driving history. Once the car is pre-approved, the Account Manager will work with you, the seller, and Key Bank, to buy the car.

Download the car-purchase guide

Double-Check Your Requests

Primary representatives submit requests for payments. Payments go smoothly when

  • The disbursement request form is filled out and signed.
  • Receipts, invoices and other paperwork are attached.
  • Purchases are allowed by the trust agreement.
  • Purchases are allowed by government benefits rules.
  • Purchases are only for the trust beneficiary.

Need help?

Get in touch with Trini Nsabimana, our trusts account manager, by email or at (703) 208-1119 ext. 119.

Buy a Home

Buying a home can be very complicated. So it is important to talk with our Trust Department through every step. If you are considering using your trust to buy a home, condo, or apartment to live in, please contact the Trust Department as soon as possible.

The PR must send the Account Manager information about the home. Once the home is pre-approved, the Account Manager will work with you, your agent, and Key Bank. Key Bank has a very knowledgeable and helpful team to help you find the best home for your needs.

Download the Key Bank Real Estate Flyer 

Double-Check Your Requests

Primary representatives submit requests for payments. Payments go smoothly when

  • The disbursement request form is filled out and signed.
  • Receipts, invoices and other paperwork are attached.
  • Purchases are allowed by the trust agreement.
  • Purchases are allowed by government benefits rules.
  • Purchases are only for the trust beneficiary.

Need help?

Get in touch with Trini Nsabimana, our trusts account manager, by email or at (703) 208-1119 ext. 119.

Pay for a Vacation

Three people in silhouette as they take photos of a beach sunsetSomeone with a special needs trust can go on vacation using money from their trust.

Vacations always take planning. Vacations involving a special needs trust can require even more planning.

The primary representative (PR) will follow the normal process for payment requests. Planning ahead can pay off. The PR can request money in advance to pay for airfare and hotels. Other expenses, like gasoline, food and drinks, only happen during the trip. It's important to keep all receipts so the expenses can be paid back.

Booking travel usually requires a credit card. If needed, The Arc of Northern Virginia can use its credit card to book travel for a beneficiary. Please check the credit card section for more information.

A Travel Companion's Expenses may be Covered
Trust money can only be used for things for the trust beneficiary. But if the beneficiary cannot travel alone, a travel companion's expenses may also be paid. The PR must get a letter proving proof the beneficiary cannot travel alone. A medical doctor, nurse practitioner, clinical social worker, physical therapist or other health professional may write the letter.

Double-Check Your Requests

Primary representatives submit requests for payments. Payments go smoothly when

  • The disbursement request form is filled out and signed.
  • Receipts, invoices and other paperwork are attached.
  • Purchases are allowed by the trust agreement.
  • Purchases are allowed by government benefits rules.
  • Purchases are only for the trust beneficiary.

Need help?

Get in touch with Trini Nsabimana, our trusts account manager, by email or at (703) 208-1119 ext. 119.

Get In Touch. We Can Help.

Photo of Tia Marsili

Tia Marsili
Director of Trusts

TMarsili@thearcofnova.org

703-208-1119, Ext 115

Tia oversees the Trust department and will be your first point of contact for new trusts.

She works with families, individuals, agencies, and attorneys throughout Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC. She specializes in educating the community, various organizations, and agencies about comprehensive Futures Planning and Special Needs Trust (SNT) services.

Tia is a professional with over 23 years of experience in the world of disabilities. She's the mother of two daughters with disabilities. She works one-to-one with families and individuals to plan futures and establish SNTs.

Born in the USA and educated in Denmark, China, and Germany, Tia is a graduate of The University of Copenhagen with a degree in Sinology. She is multi-lingual, well-traveled, and has a passion for creating systems that provide equality.

Photo of Tia Marsili

Evelyn Gu
Assistant Director

EGu@thearcofnova.org

703-208-1119,  Ext 103

Evelyn maintains the systems and documents supporting the SNT program. She offers Trust clients daily on-site and over-the-phone support by providing personal contact with families and individuals, troubleshooting Trust account issues, and processing Trust checks and documentation.

With a background in psychology and business operations from the University of Virginia, Evelyn has worked to support efficient, high-quality service delivery for various clients.

She enjoys helping individuals and families receive the necessary information and tools they need to plan for the best possible future outcomes.

Photo of Trinitas Nsabimana with a white background

Trinitas Nsabimana
Account Manager

TNsabimana@thearcofnova.org

703-208-1119, Ext 119

Trini is your point of contact for special needs trust spending requests.

She provides on-site and phone support to clients every day. She works closely with our clients to ensure they have timely and effective access to funds. That helps clients pay for the services they need, such as medical, dental, and vision care, vacations, clothing, furniture, and utility bills.

Trini holds a Master's Degree in Business Administration from the University of District of Columbia and has extensive experience working with a variety of clients in different sectors.

Caroline Girgenti
Advocate

CGirgenti@thearcofnova.org

703-208-1119, Ext 120

When caring for someone with a disability, you sometimes need extra help. Our professional personal advocate, Caroline Girgenti, can help in dozens of ways.

We charge an hourly rate for advocate services. Our personal advocate program is for anyone who needs the extra help in navigating disability services.

Caroline meets and works with beneficiaries and families. She helps sort through issues and goals to see what services are needed. Services range from big tasks, like finding a job, to smaller ones, like filling out forms and applications.

Caroline is an experienced Program Manager who has worked in the mental health and intellectual disabilities fields. She's skilled in nonprofit, program, and project management; as well as leadership, policy analysis, and program development. Caroline earned her undergraduate degree from James Madison University, and holds an Masters degree from George Mason University.