Court authorizes reimbursement of expenses from Special Needs Trust

   On August 21, 2012, in the Matter of Jennifer Rogiers, Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, Docket No. A-0389-10T1, the Court addressed issues relating to the reimbursement of expenses from a Special Needs Trust.

   Here, Jennifer Rogiers is a severely handicapped individual.  As a result of a medical malpractice lawsuit, a significant amount of funds were placed into a Special Needs Trust for Jennifer’s benefit.  At the time of her death, the balance of the trust fund was approximately $1.1 million.  Jennifer died intestate and without children.  The order creating the trust provided that upon Jennifer’s death any principal and undistributed income shall be paid to the intestate heirs.

   Following Jennifer’s death, her father sought half of the balance as his intestate share.  Her mother sought reimbursement for expenses she incurred for services provided on Jennifer’s behalf during her lifetime. 

   Jennifer lived with her mother for her entire life.  Her mother attended to her needs and incurred substantial expenses.  The original order provided that her mother would be paid for caring for Jennifer.  The mother’s claim consisted of out-of-pocket expenses and for compensation for her care.  The trial judge granted the mother’s requests. 

   The Appellate Division affirmed the award of expenses even though the mother produced a summary of the expenses and not the voluminous records from which the summary was created.  The Appellate Division rejected an argument that the some of the alleged expenses were barred by the statute of limitations.  The decision also rejects the argument that a parent should not be paid for parenting.  The mother was not merely parenting, but rather she was performing duties for which people normally receive compensation.

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