When you have a close relationship with somebody who lives with a mental illness, whether it is persistent or episodic, you can see that sometimes their symptoms can interfere with basic functioning. Maybe they just can’t deal with getting their car fixed or preparing meals or washing laundry. Or maybe they just don’t have the money to deal with the situation: a utility bill was unusually high, they need some costly dental work, the disability income simply won’t cover a new phone or computer…
An article by Adina Bailey on the Take Them a Meal Blog titled “Nobody Brings a Meal When” is a kind reminder that anybody can do a simple act of kindness when they see someone struggling with mental health symptoms.
There are a few different legal structures that support families and friends who make gifts:
- You can deposit money into an ABLE bank account and that money can then go toward “qualified disability expenses” which are defined by the ABLE National Resource Center as “any expense related to the designated beneficiary as a result of living a life with disabilities. These may include education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services, health care expenses, financial management and administrative services and other expenses which help improve health, independence, and/or quality of life.” The authority for these accounts comes from federal tax regulations and state laws.
- You can deposit money into a special needs trust and then the trustee can arrange payment for things that your intended recipient needs. Justia explains The Law on Special Needs Trusts.
- You can contribute to a non-profit organization that provides services that will benefit this person in your life.
- You can help someone arrange for a representative payee, a power of attorney, or a conservator/guardian to ensure that bills get paid.
Families and friends should also know about potential liabilities associated with providing resources or services. Chapters 19, 20, and 21 of Family Guide to Mental Illness and the Law address multiple topics associated with financial support, gift giving, and money management.