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  • Herb Thomas

Special Needs Estate Planning For a Relative With Autism

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

April is National Autism Awareness Month. According to The Autism Society of America, autism among children has risen from 1 in 125 in 2010 to 1 in 59 as of 2020. The organization’s “Celebrate Differences” campaign is intended to promote inclusion, and provide information and resources for communities. In particular, additional steps must be taken for the long-term care of a family member who has autism, and a special needs estate plan can help meet those concerns. It’s designed to ensure a high quality of life for your loved one, especially when you’re no longer able to watch over them. Here are some things special needs estate planning should consider…

Estate Settlement

Guardianship or Powers of Attorney

If your family member who has autism is still a child, who would assume the responsibility of parental obligations if you were to pass away? Will the child be capable of making important financial and legal decisions once they come of age? If a conservatorship isn’t appropriate for your adult family member, an agent may be named to help with more critical decisions.

Benefit Assessment

Medi-Cal and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are important public benefits for many people with autism. Determining if your loved one qualifies for government assistance can provide additional financial help.

Special Needs Trust (SNT)

A Special Needs Trust can be used to supplement the basic support provided by public programs, such as medical care and housing. Assets held in a SNT won’t disqualify your loved one from receiving government benefits. There are different types of Special Needs Trusts, but they’re each a beneficial tool for responsibly managing funds.

Letter of Intent (LOI)

A letter of intent isn’t a legal document, but it can be useful in special needs estate planning. It outlines your wishes for your loved one’s lifestyle and care.

Help With Your Special Needs Trust

The needs of your family member who has autism are likely to change over time, but a Special Needs Trust can help safeguard his or her long-term wellbeing. If you’re interested in discussing your options, we can help. To schedule a consultation, please contact our office at 510-749-8358.

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