Protecting Your Autistic Child’s Future

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Raising a child with autism presents unique challenges and rewards, and one of the most significant concerns for parents is ensuring their child’s long-term well-being.

As parents of autistic children consider their futures, legal mechanisms such as wills, trusts and lasting powers of attorney become crucial tools. However, navigating these options can be complex due to the specific needs of autistic individuals and the intricacies of the law.

Charles Fraser, Longmores’ Senior Solicitor and Head of the Older and Vulnerable Client team, knows the reality of raising a child on the autism spectrum and his experience has given him a depth of awareness that is invaluable when talking to families in a similar position.

Here he highlights the challenges and provides practical solutions to give peace of mind.

Understanding the challenges

  • Long-term financial security: One of the biggest concerns is securing financial stability for autistic children, who may require lifelong care and support. Many sons and daughters with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) depend on financial assistance into adulthood. Ensuring they have resources is paramount and understanding the effects that bequests can have on benefits, for example, is important.
  • Appropriate trustees and guardians: Selecting the right individuals to manage a trust or act as guardians is another significant challenge. Trustees and guardians must understand the unique needs of an autistic individual, including medical, educational and social requirements. Finding someone who is not only trustworthy but also knowledgeable about autism can be difficult.
  • Legal framework and entitlements: Navigating the legal landscape is complicated by the various entitlements and benefits available. Parents must ensure that their legal arrangements do not inadvertently disqualify their children from receiving appropriate support. This requires careful planning and the advice of a legal professional can be invaluable.

Practical solutions

  • Setting up a discretionary trust: A discretionary trust is a preferred option for many parents. This type of trust allows trustees to manage the assets for the benefit of the autistic child without giving the child direct control over the funds. This arrangement can help maintain eligibility for means-tested benefits such as Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance. When setting up a discretionary trust, choose trustees who are reliable and empathetic to the child’s needs. Trustees can be family members, friends, or professionals. It is advisable to include a letter of wishes to guide the trustees on how you want the funds to be used, reflecting the child’s specific needs and preferences.
  • Special needs trusts: Another option is a special needs trust, specifically designed to provide for the extra care and support autistic individuals may require. This trust can cover expenses not provided by public benefits, such as specialised therapies, educational programmes, or recreational activities. By supplementing, but not supplanting public benefits, a special needs trust ensures that the child’s quality of life is maintained without risking benefit entitlements.
  • Wills and guardianship: Including provisions for guardianship in your will is essential. Clearly state who you wish to take over the guardianship of your autistic child should you become unable to do so. This person should ideally be familiar with the child’s needs and capable of making informed decisions regarding their welfare. In addition, consider incorporating a testamentary trust within your will. This trust only comes into effect upon your death, allowing you to direct how your estate should be used to support your child.
  • Professional advice and regular reviews: Given the complexities involved, seeking advice from solicitors who specialise in special needs planning is crucial. They can help ensure that all legal documents are correctly drafted and that the trust structures are appropriately set up. Regular reviews of these arrangements are also important, as the child’s needs and the legal landscape may change over time.

Protecting the futures of autistic children through wills and trusts is a multifaceted process requiring careful planning and consideration. By understanding the challenges and employing tailored solutions like discretionary trusts, special needs trusts, and well-drafted wills, parents can provide for their children’s long-term security and well-being.

Professional advice is invaluable in this process, ensuring that legal arrangements are robust and flexible enough to adapt to future changes. Through meticulous planning and informed decision-making, parents can achieve peace of mind knowing their autistic children are protected and supported throughout their lives.

Here to Help

If you want to discuss future provision for your child or a family member with autism, contact Charles Fraser on 01992 305222 or

The Autism Show will be at ExCel on June 14 and 15.  Find Longmores on stand E25.

Join us on Zoom to hear Charles Fraser talk about Protecting Their Future Inheritance with Trusts and Wills on 26 June at 6:30pm.

If you would like to be added to our mailing list for information about how we can help clients with autism, please sign up here.

Please note the contents of this article are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.