Estate planning is important for all of us to have in place. This form of planning ensures that in the event of a serious crisis or death, our loved ones have a plan to follow and legal authority to make decisions. When you have a child with autism, however, this type of planning becomes even more critical.

We know that as a parent or grandparent of a child with autism, you have concern over a time in the future when you are no longer here. You want to ensure that your disabled child is as insulated as possible from any potential issues. Through the special needs planning side of our practice we work with families each day to help them create the estate planning they need to take care of their autistic child both now and in the future.

Have you created a plan for your autistic child yet? When was the last time you updated it? It is important for you to work with your attorney to ensure that your special needs planning is kept current and up-to-date. You also want to plan forward for when your child reaches the age of majority, when a guardianship may be necessary to protect your child.

The reason why is straightforward. Even if your child has significant developmental, cognitive or mental health disabilities, he or she can legally make decisions once he or she is adult. You may want to remain the decision maker for your child or to help with the responsibilities that he or she has difficulty with on a daily basis. This can be done by working with your attorney and the court to create a guardianship for your child.

Before starting this process, assess the different areas in which your child may need assistance for the remainder of his or her life. This includes medical, educational, financial, and vocational activities together with self-care and safety concern. If you child is proficient in some areas but not others, he or she may be able to maintain control over those aspects, even with a guardianship in place.

As the parent or grandparent of a child with autism, you can set up a third party special needs trust to financially provide for your child with autism. This type of trust holds the assets of someone other than the child with autism. One of the significant benefits of leaving your child an inheritance through this type of trust is that he or she will not lose assistance from any public benefits programs. If your disabled child were to inherit from you directly, he or she might be removed from public assistance programs such as SSI or Medicaid and be required to spend down the monies received before becoming eligible again for assistance.

These are just a few of the things you should be aware of if you are a parent or grandparent of a child with autism and planning for his or her long term needs. The key to success with regard to special needs planning is to work with your attorney early to determine what options are available to you. We look forward to helping you with this type of planning. Do not wait to contact our office!