Walnut Creek Autism & Special Needs Support Attorney
If you have a child with autism, you know how important early intervention and ongoing therapy and support is to maximize your child’s ability for maximum independence, self-care and quality of life. You probably also recognize that your child may likely need additional support throughout his or her lifetime. One of the most important steps you can take on this journey is to engage the assistance of an experienced special needs estate planning attorney to make the right choices to help your child along the way. Learn more about autism and special needs support below, and contact the Feldman Law Group in Walnut Creek for special needs estate planning in Contra Costa County.
What is Autism?
A complex developmental disability appearing around age 3, autism is believed to be the result of a neurological disorder affecting normal brain functioning that causes difficulty in communication, social interaction and participation in leisure or play activities.
Autism is the most common of five different developmental disorders originally described as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), neurological disorders affecting every ethnicity. Asperger syndrome is a related disorder but with individuals displaying different characteristics from persons with classical autism. Current diagnostic practices recognize that individuals may display varying characteristics that defy precise diagnosis of one disorder or another, and that individuals may fall anywhere along a spectrum of characteristics, abilities and challenges. The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) therefore lists one disorder – Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – based on features such as persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of individuals affected by autism spectrum disorder continues to grow each year.
Why is Special Needs Support for Persons with Autism so Important?
Children and adults with autism who meet specific income guidelines are generally eligible for government assistance, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Medical assistance to pay for routine and emergency medical costs, such as doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription drugs are covered by Medi-Cal. Unfortunately, if total assets exceed $2,000, eligibility for SSI, Medi-Cal and all other need-based benefits ceases.
Although it’s commonly believed that government programs such as SSI and Medi-Cal/Medicaid will care for the child when the parents have passed away, this is incorrect. What the child needs is for the parents to have a well-crafted estate plan that includes a Third Party Special Needs Trust.
How a Special Needs Trust can Help
By creating a special needs trust for a child with autism, you help ensure that the child will continue to receive your financial support as the child grows into adulthood, without losing valuable government benefits. Funds in the special needs trust can be used for a variety of purposes, such as tuition, computers, transportation, travel, hobbies and personal care. Since these funds are owned by the trust, however, they are not counted as personal income of the individual with special needs, which means they are not considered when determining the individual’s eligibility for Medi-Cal, SSI or other government benefits. Because valuable government benefits are on the line, special needs trusts should be carefully constructed by an estate planning attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in creating special needs trusts for individuals with autism spectrum disorder.
Contact Attorney Aaron Feldman in Walnut Creek for Special Needs Estate Planning in Contra Costa County
If you’re the parent or grandparent of a child with autism or other special needs and want to know what you can do to help and not hinder their medical care, quality of life and access to government services, contact the Feldman Law Group in Walnut Creek for a consultation with an experienced and successful Contra Costa County special needs estate planning attorney.