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Autism: What Every Parent Should Know About Special Needs Trusts

By Phillip B. Rarick, Esq., Miami Trust Attorney


Parents of children with autism have many daunting tasks.  One task that is often put off until it is too late is making sure you have a back-up plan if you can no longer care for your child.  You are the primary care giver for your child.  If you become disabled or die, do you have a plan?  Do you have instructions to care for your child?  Have you designated persons whom you trust and who could care for your child if you cannot not provide such care?

If you have not had time to consider these critical questions, now is the time.  It is important that you know about how a Special Needs Trust can best help your child.  It is also important to know about Florida Guardianship.  This article discusses Special Needs Trusts; for information about Florida Guardianship see our guide:  Florida Guardianship Quick Reference Guide.

Special Needs Trust

Virtually every parent who has a child with autism resulting in significant disability should have in place a Special Needs Trust. This trust is  legally binding instructions to make sure your child receives the full benefit of federal or state programs, and that every dime of your money is prudently spent for the benefit of your child.  In short, it is a way to protect the life style of your child, and make sure he or she gets the best care possible if you are not around to help.

Benefits of a Special Needs Trust

The benefits of a Special Needs Trust for an autistic minor child or adult are several:

–        The Trust allows the person to continue to receive governmental assistance when they either inherit assets or when they receive assets through litigation or other unexpected sources

–        Prevents the autistic person from being disqualified for governmental assistance

–        When you can no longer care for your child, the trust  appoints a person and successor persons whom you trust to act as the Trustee.  The Trustee’s job is to make sure all of the money designated for your child goes to your child in the most prudent way possible, and that your instructions are followed exactly as written.

How A Special Needs Trust Works

A special needs trust is a discretionary trust designed to preserve governmental benefits for the autistic person.  Distributions from the special needs trust are designed to supplement the beneficiary’s public benefits, not supplant them. There are a two different types of special needs trusts: (1) a third party special needs trust, and (2) a self-settled special needs trust.

Special needs trusts are commonly used to provide the beneficiary with specially equipped vehicles, dental work, computers, televisions, electronic devices, and other benefits not covered by SSI, Medicaid or other public benefits programs.

Consult With An Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

If you have a child with autism,  you should consult with an experienced trust attorney to ensure that all of the technical requirements are met for this type of trust.  To schedule an appointment with Miami trust attorney Phil Rarick, call (305) 556-5209 or email

Special Note

The information on this blog is of a general nature and is not intended to answer any individual’s legal questions. Do not rely on information presented herein to address your individual legal concerns. If you have a legal question about your individual facts and circumstances, you should consult an attorney that is experienced in Florida estate planning law. Your receipt of information from this website or blog does not create an attorney-client relationship and the legal privileges inherent therein.

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