Legal advice interventions through Forum for Autism
All parents worry about their children – about whether they are safe, happy, healthy. For parents of children with autism, this worry is often compounded by the fear of what will happen to them once their parents are no longer around to take care of them. It was with this in mind that iProbono and Forum for Autism organised training sessions for parents of children with autism.
About Forum for Autism
Forum For Autism (FFA) is a public trust based in Mumbai which works on improving facilities for autism diagnosis, education, training and rehabilitation. FFA provides counselling for parents, educates them on the severity of their child’s disorder, and provides information on available therapies and rehabilitation methods. They maintain a database of various therapists for speech therapy, auditory retraining, sensory integration, special schools, career assistance, and special dieticians to combat development disorders. Besides this, FFA hosts seminars and programmes on a regular basis, inviting experts from India and abroad to share their knowledge with parents.
“iProbono brings a great professional touch by engaging with top notch lawyers to provide simple and practical solutions for the special needs community, especially for families of children with Autism. A big thank you for the time spent by all the team members on this engagement.” – Chitra Iyer, Trustee, Forum for Autism
Over time iProbono has built a strong advisory relationship with FFA and continues to provide legal assistance on transactional projects. Since 2016, one of India’s leading law firms Khaitan & Co. has partnered with iProbono to deliver legal seminars for parents on issues like estate planning and managing the financial interests of autistic children and adults. Due to the pandemic, the seminars moved online from our previous model of in-person meetings in Mumbai.
In October 2020, FFA and iProbono organised a webinar in which Khaitan’s lawyers Anuj Shah and Sachin Bhandawat discussed how wills, trusts and other legal instruments can be used by parents to ensure the financial well being of their autistic children beyond their own lifetimes. They covered the relative benefits of different estate planning instruments, advised on how to select trusted advisors (i.e. executors, trustees and guardians), and gave suggestions on how to put in place a comprehensive estate plan. The session had over 120 attendees and was posted on youtube in order to have as wide a reach as possible.
As a result of this webinar, many families began planning their finances and realised that they need further assistance with setting up trusts. Consequently, the Khaitan team prepared a template for a private discretionary trust deed keeping in mind the special needs of these particular families. Such trusts allow for the parents to retain control over their assets in their lifetime, and to then have trustees manage their assets for the benefit of their children (the beneficiaries) thereafter.
In order to take families through this template, iProbono and FFA organised another webinar in October 2021 specifically on trust formation. Lawyers Anuj Shah, Aditi Sharma and Sachin Bhandawat focussed on issues and legalities involved in setting up a trust and answered specific queries from the parents. The session had over 100 families in attendance, and a recording is available on youtube.
iProbono is extremely proud to have contributed to the success of such an empowering initiative and we hope to continue our work with FFA in the future.