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National Alliance on Mental Illness
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The First Step - Start with an 80% commitment

Find an experienced attorney and commit to drafting and signing a Basic Plan.

An 80% Plan will cover "The Basics"

  • A Will - A will with carefully drafted instructions for distribution of your estate upon death could provide for the establishing of a Special Needs Trust. A good addition would be a Letter of Intent, though not a legal document, this document would provide very valuable detailed information about your wishes for the future care of your loved one.
  • A Simple Special Needs Trust - The trust can become effective upon your death (Testamentary Trust), but there are advantages to establishing the trust now (Inter Vivos Trust)
  • Power of Attorney - A power of attorney, either financial or medical, gives another person the right to make decisions for you should you become incapacitated. Include provision that permits in advance transfer of assets for SNT funding where needed. This transfer of assets to a Special Needs Trust set up for a disabled individual does not create a period of ineligibility for either SSI or Medicaid. Anyone can make an exempt transfer to a qualifying trust for an individual who qualifies as disabled and who is under age 65.
  • Medical Directives to reduce the risk of guardianship and loss of funds. It is a legal document that allows you to designate a person to serve as your health care agent, allows you to make some selections regarding the kind of treatment or care you want provided in the future.


The future is uncertain and having a basic plan in place is better than not having a plan at all. A very high percentage of families that have children with disabilities, maybe as high as 80%, never prepare even a basic plan.

It is critical to have a basic set of documents    signed and effective. Untimely death is one worry, but a high percentage of primary caregivers suffer severe disability or mental incapacity themselves.

The 80% plan is like living in a pre-fabricated home until your custom designed home is being built.  With the Basic Plan in place, it is now important to keep moving toward the 98% or complete plan. The closer you move to this goal, the more you will maximize the benefits and opportunities of good planning and minimize the risks of poor or incomplete planning.

Continue to Proposed "Gold Standard" Special Needs Trusts

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More on the Letter Of Intent


If you have found this information useful, won't you please consider supporting NAMI? Your contribution will help us to continue helping millions of people living with mental illness. 
    Please make a tax-deductible donation to NAMI now.

The above information is provided to educate in a general way and is not intended to provide specific legal or professional advice.

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