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Should you create a special needs trust for your autistic child?

The diagnosis of autism in young children is on the rise. Nearly 2 percent of male infants and 0.5 percent of female infants are born with autism and eventually diagnosed. Overall, that means that 1 in every 68 children born in the United States has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis.

When your beloved child receives an autism diagnosis, there are many special steps you will likely take as a parent. These include special education schools or programs, autism-intervention therapies such as Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), speech and physical therapies and even in-home nursing care.

One important step that is often overlooked until the child reaches maturity is financial planning. Autistic children will likely need some degree of support and intervention for the rest of their lives. While some achieve independence or a degree of independence after adulthood, many will be dependent on their families for housing, as well as social and financial support, for their whole lives.

As a parent with an autistic child, you should strongly consider speaking with an experienced estate and trust attorney to create a special needs trust to protect your child in the event of your passing.

Special needs trusts protect your autistic child and your assets

When you create an estate plan and last will, many times you simply choose which assets each heir should receive. With a special needs heir, however, additional planning will help protect the inheritance and financial future of your autistic child (or grandchild). Depending on where your autistic heir falls on the ASD spectrum, planning for finances may be outside of his or her skill set. By creating a special needs trust, you help ensure the money your child needs will be available for living expenses and medical or support needs for as long as it lasts.

Putting the inheritance for your autistic child into a trust prevents a caregiver or family member from misusing or even overtly stealing the money from your child. With a trust, you, as the person creating the trust, can decide how the administrator of the trust can use funds, as well as expenses that are prohibited. This protects your autistic child from being taken advantage of or left at the mercy of social supports, like Social Security and Disability, for future needs.

An attorney can help you create a special needs trust

Creating a special needs trust can be a complex process. To ensure that the text is in accordance with New York state laws, working with an experienced probate and estate attorney is your best option. Your attorney can help you create a special needs trust that will protect your autistic child's inheritance and your peace of mind. You can go about your life knowing that no matter what happens to you, your child will remain financially secure.

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