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. 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 your mentally ill child. 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 can be registered with the sub registrar.
The parents/relatives may form a Private Trust clearly stating in the Trust Deed that the objective of the Trust is the welfare and maintenance of a 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 once the Trust Deed is signed.
The parents of the person with mental illness can form a private trust with a small amount for his/her the benefit. The parents and some trusted friends/relatives can be made trustees. The parents can make a will that after them all their assets would be transferred to the trust formed for the benefit of the disabled. 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 parents have been discussing the possibility of setting up a society for the purpose of building dwelling units for disabled 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 a disabled out of endowment made by his or her caregiver. This would be quite affordable compared to what one is required to shell out now to some existing facilities in the country. This concept is at a nascent stage and some anchor person is 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. 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.
Amrit Bakhshy is president of SAA since 2010, and has authored a book on mental health and caregiving, which is available in English and Marathi. He is also on the Institution Body of NIMHANS and chairperson of their Hospital Management Committee.