Special Needs Planning Ideas to Consider When a Loved One Has Autism

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Do you have a loved one with autism? Did you also know April is World Autism Month? What is World Autism Month? It is a time to promote autism awareness, inclusion, and self-determination for all, and assure that each person with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life. For families with loved ones on the autism spectrum, understanding the complexity of special needs planning is very important. Be aware that special needs planning is more than just legal work; it is a critical opportunity toward securing a bright and secure future for individuals with autism. 

With this type of estate planning, your loved one will be sure to continue to receive the care and support they need, without putting their eligibility for vital government benefits like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at risk. We cannot point out enough the need to not only create a special needs plan within your Florida estate plan, but to also be sure that it stays current and up-to-date. Just a few of the ideas to consider in regard to why you want to work hand in hand with your local AFELA attorney include, but are not limited to, the following:

Special needs planning is ever-changing; what works today may not be suitable tomorrow. Laws often change, as do individual circumstances and the needs of your loved one with autism. Legislation affecting Medicaid, SSI, and other benefits can change, impacting eligibility and benefits. Regular reviews with an AFELA estate planning attorney knowledgeable about special needs planning can help navigate these changes effectively.

As individuals with autism age, their needs, preferences, and life situations can shift dramatically. A plan set up for a child may need adjustments as they transition to adulthood.

Be aware that a very critical aspect of special needs planning for a loved one with autism involves being sure they do not lose eligibility for government benefits, which often provides for their medical care and certain types of personal support.  Therefore a properly structured Special Needs Trust can hold assets for the benefit of your loved one without affecting their eligibility for benefits. The trust can pay for expenses not covered by government programs, making your loved one’s quality of life even better. Further, for individuals who may not be able to make decisions for themselves, establishing guardianship or conservatorship may be essential. This legal process allows a designated person to make decisions on behalf of your loved one.

To conclude, special needs planning for a loved one with autism requires a personal and thoughtful approach. Knowing your plan is current and meticulously designed to preserve long-term care benefits, you can provide for your loved one’s needs without compromising their financial security or access to essential services. During World Autism Month and throughout the year, we want to renew our commitment to making informed, compassionate choices that uplift and support individuals with autism throughout their lives.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. The Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys (AFELA) is the pre-eminent organization of Florida elder law attorneys providing advocacy, education and action on behalf of seniors and people with disabilities. We encourage you to contact one of our attorneys in your area using our Find a Lawyer website for assistance.