Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Katherine Owens (Comment Editor, Estate Planning and Community Property Journal; JD anticipated 2013, Texas Tech University School of Law) recently published her article entitled One Piece of the Puzzle: A Practitioner's Guide to Autism-Specific Special Needs Trusts, 4 EPJ 343 (2012). The introduction to the article is below:
Autism diagnosis rates are rising. While it is difficult to ascertain the exact percentage of individuals who will be diagnosed with the disorder, one thing is for certain: With chances as high as 1 in 110, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) will affect all of us in some way or another. However, what does the rise in ASD cases mean for the estate planning community?
There is a rapidly growing need for experienced and caring attorneys and financial professionals who can assemble a comprehensive estate and financial plan for individuals with disabilities. The need in this area stems from several factors, including the move [a]way from institutional placements, advances in medicine which have increased the life expectancy of people with disabilities and the alarming rise in autism, a pervasive life-long disability.
With a rise in ASD diagnoses, it is likely that all practitioners within this community will be asked to execute a will or trust with an autistic individual in mind. As statistics show a rapid increase in autism, lawyers must be aware that they will be planning for families where ASD impairs a family member more and more. As attorneys, what issues must be kept in mind when planning for the future of someone with ASD? Very little is known about ASD and the lack of potential causes or cures presents several interesting challenges for practitioners creating trusts for families or individuals affected by ASD.
This article will address some of the issues associated with a broad-spectrum disorder like ASD. First, background information will be presented in order to develop a strong foundation of what ASD is, what other disorders are associated with it, and other issues families with ASD children face. Next, a brief overview of Special Needs Trusts (SNT) will be tied into the previously discussed ASD information in order to develop an inclusive and ASD-specific SNT framework. Lastly, this article will address some of the questions that parents or grandparents of ASD individuals will likely ask legal professionals when planning for the future of their child. A solution is needed, and the research and assertions within this article will hopefully bring ASD awareness, as well as provide practitioners with helpful guidelines to creating trusts for clients with ASD.