How to Set Up a Special Needs Trust (SNT) in Hong Kong

Examining Hong Kong's Special Needs Trust (SNT) as financial protection for special needs families.


Share this Article

Parents of special needs children have to consider their child’s financial well-being after their passing, and often, delegating the management of funds to a trusted family member may seem like a straightforward solution. However, this isn’t always feasible, and in certain situations, establishing a trust is often the best alternative.

The Hong Kong Special Needs Trust

Setting up a trust for the financial security of a child with special needs does not require substantial wealth. 

In 2018, the Hong Kong government has introduced the Special Needs Trust specifically designed to support middle-class families. The SNT aims to ensure that children with special needs continue to receive care after their parents have passed away.

In this setup, the government assumes the role of both trustee and manager. The Special Needs Trust is meant to be an affordable, reliable trust designed for individuals with intellectual disabilities, mental disorders, or autism. Assets are managed by the government or a designated organization.

How to set up an account with the Hong Kong Special Needs Trust

Setting up a Special Needs Trust account with the Social Welfare Department involves naming a list of designated carers who will be responsible for the care and well-being of your child. It is important to work out the estimated monthly expenditures required to meet your child’s specific needs. The Social Welfare Department staff is available to provide support throughout this process. 

You need to prepare a letter of intent in order to designate a reliable caregiver – either an individual or an organization – to manage your child’s expenses according to your care plan.

Lastly, you will need to deposit a minimum of HK$260,000 into your Special Needs Trust account. This sum covers 12 months of living expenses set at the Hong Kong Guardianship Board’s current minimum of HK$20,000 per month and a prepayment of the first annual fee of HK$20,000.

The Special Needs Trust activates upon the parents’ passing. The Social Welfare Department will regularly disburse funds to the designated caregiver, who uses them according to the established care plan until the trust is depleted or the special needs individual passes away.


Benefits and strengths of the Hong Kong Special Needs Trust

Since the government manages the trust, it functions as a dependable intermediary between the caregiver and the special needs child. 

Chung Wing-yee, the officer in charge of the Social Welfare Department’s Special Needs Trust office, notes that the Social Welfare Department maintains contact with the caregiver for the duration of the Special Needs Trust account. 

Periodic reviews may be conducted to assess the caregiver's capability to fulfill their role. Additionally, a registered social worker will serve as a case manager, ready to modify the care plan as necessary.

Challenges and considerations of the Hong Kong Special Needs Trust

Welfare advocates have expressed worries about the substantial entry threshold. In a city where approximately 20 percent live in poverty, not all families can afford to allocate HK$260,000 to a non-interest bearing trust account.

“That’s an amount only middle-class families or above can afford,” says family lawyer Rita Ku, founder of Rita Ku & Solicitors. Rita ran a campaign in 2023 to raise public awareness around special needs financial planning. 

She adds, “A parent told us her daughter has severe disabilities. The family needs to spend money taking care of her. To suddenly have to put more than HK$200,000 into the trust is simply too much for them.”

However, Sarina Cheung, a consultant at Rita Ku & Solicitors, points out that a private trust usually requires millions in capital and incurs hefty annual fees. In contrast, the Special Needs Trust is substantially more affordable. 

"The Special Needs Trust pools funds from different parents for investment.  This significantly saves on administrative costs," she explains.

Parents considering the Special Needs Trust should remember that the service is exclusive to Hong Kong residents. Should your child relocate abroad in the future, the Special Needs Trust ceases to function when the beneficiary departs from Hong Kong.

Another limitation is that the Special Needs Trust solely manages monetary assets, which means it cannot assist parents wishing to bequeath non-monetary assets like real estate to their children.

Justin, the father of a 14-year-old boy with autism, says, “I can get a will to transfer my property to my son. But that still doesn’t solve the issue of no one being there to help my son manage the asset. And the Special Needs Trust cannot help me with that.”

Although the Social Welfare Department did not disclose the number of Special Needs Trust applicants, local media claims that the Social Welfare Department received a total of 65 applications between 2019 and March 2023, resulting in the establishment of 14 SNT accounts.

It's important to recognize that no single arrangement is perfect, and each family’s circumstances need to be taken into account when considering the suitability of the Special Needs Trust. 

For more detailed information, visit the Social Welfare Department's website or access our feature on special needs estate planning here.


  • The Hong Kong government introduced the Special Needs Trust (SNT) in 2018 to help middle-class families provide for the care of children with special needs after the parents' demise, handling the role of both trustee and manager.
  • To set up an SNT, families must list designated carers, estimate monthly expenses for the child, prepare a letter of intent for a caregiver, and deposit a minimum of HK$260,000, covering a year's expenses and the first annual fee.
  • Limitations of the SNT include its exclusivity to Hong Kong residents and the inability to manage non-monetary assets.