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10 Key Tips for Special Needs Estate Planning During Autism Awareness Month

On Behalf of | Apr 19, 2024 | Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts

April is Autism Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and supporting individuals with autism and their families. When estate planning for someone with special needs, particularly those on the autism spectrum, it’s crucial to consider their unique circumstances to ensure their long-term care and financial security.

Here are ten tips to help guide you through the process and help protect your family and loved ones with these unique financial and Estate Planning goals:

  1. Understand the Individual’s Needs: Start by understanding the individual’s specific needs, abilities, and limitations. This understanding will inform your estate planning decisions.
  2. Establish a Special Needs Trust (SNT): Creating a special needs trust is like giving them a financial safety net that won’t interfere with their benefits. It allows you to have their back, even when you’re not around.
  3. Choose a Trustee Who Gets It: Picking the right trustee is key. You need someone who’ll manage the trust with empathy and understanding, making decisions that truly benefit the individual.
  4. Think Long-Term Expenses: Anticipate future expenses related to the individual’s care, including medical care, therapies, housing, transportation, and other support services. Make sure the trust is well-funded to handle these costs so they can live their best life.
  5. Update Beneficiary Designations: Review and update beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other assets to ensure they align with your estate plan and the special needs trust.
  6. Create a Letter of Intent: Pour your heart into a letter of intent. It’s like a user manual for their care, packed with all the details that’ll help future caregivers understand and support them.
  7. Work with Professionals: Don’t navigate this maze alone. Bring in the experts – estate planning attorneys, financial advisors, and special needs planners – to guide you through the process. They can help you navigate complex legal and financial issues and ensure your plan meets all legal requirements.
  8. Maximize Government Benefits: Structure the estate plan to maximize the individual’s eligibility for government benefits and support programs while providing supplementary funds through the special needs trust.
  9. Plan for the Long Haul: Think ahead about who’ll take the reins when you’re no longer around. Set up a solid plan for managing the trust and updating it as life throws curveballs.
  10. Review and Update Regularly: Life changes, and so should your plan. Regularly review and update it, especially after major life events, to ensure it keeps pace with their evolving needs. Review and update the estate plan regularly, especially after significant life events such as marriage, divorce, births, or changes in financial circumstances.

By following these tips and working closely with professionals, you can create an effective estate plan that provides for the long-term care and financial security of your loved one with special needs.