April was set aside as the month during which we raised awareness about autism. This developmental disorder is growing rapidly, and it impacts a significant percentage of Americans to one extent or another.
There are some telling statistics on the Autism Society website, including eye-catching estimates on cost of care. On average, the cost of caring for someone with autism throughout his or her life runs somewhere between $3.5 million and $5 million.
Most individuals simply do not have this kind of money to lay out for care costs. As a result, many people with autism and other challenges heavily rely on Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal in California) to pay for expensive care. Income is often derived via government SSI benefits.
These government programs have strict guidelines that govern who is and is not eligible. Because they are intended for people with a certain amount of financial need, a benefit recipient could be declared ineligible if he or she was to suddenly come into a significant sum of money via an inheritance.
As a response, estate planning attorneys will often recommend the creation of a supplemental or special needs trusts to clients who would like to provide something for someone who is receiving government benefits.
These trusts provide access to financial resources for certain quality of life purposes, but they don’t impact benefit eligibility.