If you’re the parent of a child with autism, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that one out of every 110 children, and one out of every 70 boys, has some form of autism. You’re familiar with the day-to-day challenges and rewards of bringing up a child with this condition, but what would happen to your child if you were no longer in the picture?
It’s something no parent wants to think about, but for parents of kids with autism or other special needs, planning for the unthinkable is incredibly important. First, there’s your child’s emotional well-being to consider; if you pass away without nominating a guardian for your child, that decision could be left up to a judge. This is not the ideal scenario for any child, but it can be especially detrimental to pair an autistic child with a guardian who is not familiar with the condition and who does not know the child. This is why you should hand-pick a guardian who knows your child and who you’re convinced would do the best possible job of providing care in the event of your death.
Aside from the emotional concerns, there are significant financial concerns when it comes to children with special needs. For instance, it’s important to ensure that your child’s medical and therapeutic needs will be provided for even after you’re gone. However, the manner in which you leave your child an inheritance can have a huge impact on his or her quality of life. If your child receives SSI, Medicaid, or other government-funded benefits, leaving more than just a minimal amount of money or assets directly to your child can disqualify him or her from those benefits until the inheritance is used up. This can wreak havoc on your child’s lifestyle at an already difficult and stressful time. One solution to this problem is to establish a special needs trust for your child, rather than simply leaving a direct inheritance.
Making sure your autistic child is protected and provided for, even in the face of unexpected circumstances, can seem like an overwhelming task. Fortunately, you don’t have to figure it out on your own. An experienced estate planning attorney can explain all your options and help you put together an estate plan that will work when it’s needed.