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I am looking for an alternative to guardianship.

Planning for Loss of Health

This guide explores the many alternatives to guardianship that give people with disabilities support to make decisions without taking away their rights.

Guide Overview

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

This guide tells you about supported decision-making as an alternative to guardianship.

Most people with disabilities can manage their own affairs with assistance and guidance from a person whom they trust—and they do not need a guardian. There are many alternatives to guardianship that give people with disabilities support to make decisions without taking away their rights.

During the 84th Texas Legislative Session in 2015, legislators passed new laws that make Texas the first state to have laws recognizing supported decision-making agreements as an alternative to guardianship.

For additional information, call 800-252-9729 or visit Arc of TexasNational Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making, and Texas Guardianship Reform and Supported Decision-Making. If you need further help, see Legal Help Directory to look for a lawyer, free legal aid program, or self-help center in your area.


Common questions about Planning for Loss of Health

Supported decision-making allows individuals to make their own decisions and stay in charge of their lives, while receiving the help and assistance they need to do so. All people need and use support to make important life decisions. Even if a person with a disability needs extra help to make significant life decisions, their right to make their own choices should not be taken away. Using a supported decision-making agreement, a person with a disability chooses someone they trust to serve as their supporter.

Under a supported decision-making agreement, the supporter CAN help a person with a disability:

  • Understand the options, responsibilities, and consequences of their decisions.
  • Obtain and understand information relevant to their decisions.
  • Communicate their decisions to the appropriate people.

Under a supported decision-making agreement, the supporter CANNOT make a decision for a person with a disability.

A supported decision-making agreement may be entered into by an adult with a disability, defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” The adult with a disability must voluntarily agree to the supported decision-making agreement and cannot be pressured into entering a supported decision-making agreement.  

The law does not establish a specific level of capacity required for an individual to enter into a supported decision-making agreement. The individual should have the ability to understand that he or she needs assistance in making particular decisions, to choose a trusted friend or trusted family to be his or her supporter and be able to make decisions with the help of the supporter.

Through Supported Decision Making, any adult may be a supporter. Usually it is a family member or friend. The adult with a disability must choose who will serve as his or her supporter. The individual should pick someone they trust. A supported decision-making agreement is based on trust. An adult with a disability cannot be told whom to select as his or her supporter.

In supported decision making, the adult with a disability may allow his or her supporter to:

  • Help gather information needed for a life decision
  • Support the decision-making process by helping the adult evaluate and understand the options and consequences, and
  • Communicate that decision to other parties. 

The agreement may be established for one specific decision or for many decisions. The agreement may be customized to fit the situation as long as it is substantially similar to the statutory form.

The supporter has no authority to make the decisions for the adult with a disability. The supporter is only allowed to assist the individual with whatever is specified in the agreement.  The supporter helps the individual gather information and understand that information in order to make an informed decision. The supporter can also assist the person with a disability in communicating the decision to the necessary third parties. The supporter merely assists the individual—the individual with a disability is “the decider.”

The adult keeps the right to make the decisions, including where to live, with whom to live, where to work, and what supports and services they want. The individual can reject the advice of the supporter or make life decisions without the assistance of the supporter

A power of attorney grants another person the authority to make decisions and handle matters without input from the individual. A supported decision-making agreement does not give the supporter the power to make decisions. The person with a disability retains right to make decisions for himself or herself.  

Instructions & Forms

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

The following are steps you can review to guide you through the supported decision making-process.

Checklist Steps

Choose people you trust to help you make decisions.

Ask the people you choose to be your supporters.

Note: You can change your mind and say you do not want this person to support you whenever you want.

Think about what decisions you need help making.

Fill out and complete a written plan called a Supported Decision-Making Agreement. The forms can be found at the link below.

When you need to make a decision and want help, call your supporters to help you. That is what they are there for.

Take the agreement and your supporters with you to the doctor, to school, when looking at places to live, etc. Supported decisionmaking lets you have some help, but remain as indepdendent as possible. 

Forms Required

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