5 Estate Planning Tips for Families With Children on the Autism Spectrum

estate planning tips for parents with autistic children

April is National Autism Acceptance Month, and it’s a reminder of the unique challenges facing families with children on the autism spectrum. Estate planning is a critical step that everyone should take to ensure their assets are properly distributed after their passing. For these families, estate planning takes on even greater importance.

Children with autism often require specialized care and support throughout their lives, and without proper planning, their needs may go unmet after their parents or guardians pass away.

In this blog, we’ll discuss five estate planning tips specifically tailored for families with children on the autism spectrum in honor of Autism Acceptance Month.

1. Start Planning Early

As a parent, planning for your child’s future is important, especially when your child has unique needs like those on the autism spectrum. Starting early gives you the time you need to create a plan that ensures your child’s continued care and support, even after you’re no longer able to provide it.

Many tools are available to help you plan for your child’s future. From government programs to financial planning, it’s important to research and understand what resources are available to you.

Working with an estate planning attorney can also be helpful. They can offer valuable advice and guidance and may have insights into resources or programs you might not know about.

2. Maximize Government Benefits

Maximizing government benefits is crucial for families with children on the autism spectrum.

Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Research government programs your child may be eligible for — Look into programs like Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to see what your child may qualify for.
  • Meet eligibility requirements — Ensure your child meets the eligibility requirements for the programs you’re interested in.
  • Apply for benefits — Don’t hesitate to apply for benefits your child is eligible for. The application process can take some time, so it’s best to start early.
  • Keep track of paperwork — Make sure to keep track of all paperwork related to your child’s benefits, including approvals, denials, and communications from the government.

By maximizing government benefits, you can ensure your child has access to the resources they need to thrive.

3. Consider Setting Up a Special Needs Trust

One of the most effective ways to ensure that your child on the autism spectrum continues to receive the care and support they need is by setting up a special needs trust. This type of trust can provide for your child’s ongoing financial needs while protecting their eligibility for government benefits.

A special needs trust can help you:

  • Ensure that your child’s future needs are taken care of, even after you can no longer provide for them
  • Protect your child’s eligibility for government benefits, such as SSI or Medicaid
  • Provide a reliable source of income to cover expenses related to your child’s care and support

Working with a special needs planning attorney can help you create a special needs trust that meets your family’s unique needs and ensures your child’s future is secure.

4. Plan for Long-term Care

Planning for long-term care is critical to ensuring your child on the autism spectrum receives the care and support they need throughout their life.

Here are a couple of things to consider:

  • Guardianship — If your child cannot make important decisions for themselves, you may need to establish guardianship. This will give you the legal authority to decide on their healthcare, living arrangements, and other important matters.
  • Conservatorship — If your child cannot manage their finances, you may need to establish a conservatorship. This will give you the legal authority to manage your finances and make financial decisions on your behalf.

Working with a professional can help you navigate this complex process and create a plan that meets your family’s unique needs.

5. Review and Update Your Estate Plan Regularly

Estate planning is not a one-time event but an ongoing process that needs to be reviewed and updated regularly. This is especially true for families with children on the autism spectrum, whose needs may change over time.

Reviewing your estate plan regularly is important to ensure that it still reflects your wishes and meets your family’s unique needs. You should consider updating your estate plan if your child’s medical or financial needs change, you experience a major life event, or laws or regulations related to estate planning change.

Don’t let uncertainty and worry about the future hold you back. Take control of your family’s future today by contacting Santa Barbara Estate Planning & Elder Law.

Author Bio

Julianna Malis is the Founder and Managing Partner of Santa Barbara Estate Planning & Elder Law, a Santa Barbara estate planning law firm she founded in 2014. With more than 25 years of experience practicing law, she has dedicated her career to representing clients in a wide range of legal matters, including estate planning, elder law, Medicaid and Medicare planning, probate, and other estate planning areas.

Julianna received her Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific — McGeorge School of Law and is a member of the California State Bar Association.

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