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April 2nd is World Autism Day

by Phil Levin, Esq. on April 2nd, 2018
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April 2, is World Autism Day.

The purpose of World Autism Awareness day is to encourage early detection and intervention. If your child or grandchild seems to be showing signs of speech delay or is not interacting with you, I am pleased to let you know autismspeaks.org has some tools to help determine if your child or grandchild needs to be evaluated for autism.

While a diagnosis of Autism is scary, there have been great advances in therapies, education and even some medications which give significant hope for a happy life despite the autism diagnosis.

Our clients who have a child or grandchild with Autism are concerned about their future and there is good reason for great concern. For example, budgets for state and federal social services are always subject to cuts. Many children and adults with Autism receive public benefits which will be lost if the person inherits money outright, which is not placed into a Special Needs Trust. Losing public benefits can mean losing housing, caregivers and health insurance. The loss of public benefits can be devastating.

Special Needs Trusts can ensure that your loved one continue to receive all these important public benefits. Additionally, a Special Needs Trust can supplement theor government provided benefits, since the Trust is allowed to provide your loved one with supplemental benefits, to augment the quality if their life, without losing valuable public benefits they need and rely upon, so long as the Trustee follows the rules set out by the Social Security Administration and the specific terms contained in the Trust Agreement.

If you have a child or grandchild with Autism, and do not have a Will or Trust drafted by an attorney who concentrates in planning for children with special needs, or you do have a Special Needs Trust which has not been reviewed or updated to reflect your current personal, financial circumstances, along with recent changes in the law, or you are not certain the Trust was written correctly, your loved one is at risk of losing important public benefits in the event of your passing.

If you want to leave your estate to a loved one with Autism, you need to establish an appropriate Special Needs Trust which meets the current requirements set forth by the Social Security Administration. However, the federal rules and regulations are complex and if your Special Needs Trust is not written correctly and in compliance with relevant laws, your loved one could lose valuable financial benefits.

Parents and grandparents often delay establishing or funding a Special Needs Trust because they might be concerned that the Trust will impede their loved one if they are able to function like other adults in tbe future. However, a competent Special Needs Trust attorney will know how to properly design, draft, and implement a Special Needs Trust which complies with all legal requirements to make sure that if your child or grandchild with special needs requires public benefits, now or in the future, your loved one will be guaranteed to receive their financial benefits, and if the individual is able to become self-supporting during tbeir life, he or she will be able to receive the full benefits of their inheritance, in accordance with your wishes and estate planning desires.

Please note that when a person turns eighteen (18), the age of majority in most states, they have all the rights of an adult regardless of their ability to make their own financial decisions. Therefore, prents of a child with Autism (or other disability) must decide whether or not their child needs assistance with making adult decisions, including making arrwngementd for the management of their financial affairs.

If your child or grandchild has special needs, it is vitally important that you consult with an estate planning attorney who fully understands and appreciates the needs of people living with disabilities, in order to guide families through the process of establishing and funding the appropriate type of Special Needs Trust.

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