Under the National Trust Act (NTA), there is a provision to bequeath movable property to the Board constituted under the NTA for the benefit of a disabled person. The Board has the obligation to make arrangements for adequate standard of living for the beneficiary named in the bequest and to utilise the property bequeathed for any other purpose for which the bequest has been made. The National Trust is for the welfare of persons with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities. Currently persons with mental illness are not the beneficiaries under the Act; it is hoped that the amendments to the Act which are to be made to make it UNCRPD compliant, will cover mental illness also. There is also a demand from the family caregivers that the Board should be enabled to receive bequest of immovable properties. One has to wait and see in what form the amended/new legislation is passed.
The parents of mentally ill have to take initiative and do something for the mentally ill ward. Dependence on authorities and other private agencies can be a frustrating experience. Forming a trust for the benefit of a person with mental illness is a good way to secure the future of a family member with mental illness. A trust is a relationship by which assets are held by one party for the benefit of another. Unlike a will, the trust is functional when the executor of the trust is alive. A private trust can be formed under the Indian Trusts Act. No minimum property is required to form a trust. The trust document can be notarized or registered with the sub registrar.
The parents/relatives can form a Private Trust with a small amount clearly stating in the Trust Deed that the objective of the Trust is the welfare and maintenance of the named person with mental illness. There should be one or more person(s) who want(s) to form the Trust and minimum of two trustees. Care should be taken that the trusted relatives or friends who are made trustees are preferably younger than the beneficiary as they have better chance of surviving the beneficiary. The Trust comes in to effect when the Trust Deed is signed.
The parents can make a will that after them all or part of their assets would be transferred to the trust formed for the benefit of the named family member. The trustees will have the obligations to provide for the beneficiary out of the income from the movable and immovable assets bequeathed. The trust deed can provide for the dissolution of the trust after the demise of the beneficiary, stating the manner in which the assets need to be disposed of which could be by way of donations to one or more charities.
Some families have been discussing the possibility of setting up a society for the purpose of building dwelling units for their family members who need life time supported living and provide the facility to those whose parents leave an endowment for the purpose. The society would be run by the caregiver members on no profit no loss basis. The endowment can be decided on the basis of actuarial calculations or some insurance company can be approached to provide life time disbursements to the needy family members out of endowment made by their caregivers. This would be quite affordable compared to what one is required to shell out now to some existing institutional facilities in the country. This concept is at a nascent stage and some anchor persons are required to carry it forward.
Another concept is to form communes within the community where caregivers and their mentally ill wards can live and support each other. Caregivers also need support in their old age and this can be made available in the commune. After a caregivers is no more, his disabled ward would get support from the other living caregivers and the commune employees. This would ensure that the dependent mentally ill is not dislocated after his/her caregiver is no more. He/she would continue to live in the familiar environment and will be supported by the commune members. There would also be no isolation for him/her.
The new Mental Healthcare Act 2017 has some provisions which should reduce the worries of family caregivers. The Act requires the State to provide “sheltered accommodation” which would be a safe and secure accommodation option for persons with mental illness, who want to live and manage their affairs independently, but need occasional help and support. The Act also refers to “supported accommodation” which would be a living arrangement whereby a person with mental illness, in need of support, who has a rented or ownership accommodation, but has no live-in caregiver, shall get domiciliary care and a range of support services from a caregiver of a government approved agency to help him live independently and safely in the privacy of his home.
– Amrit Bakhshy