Alternatives to Guardianship

Guardianship is an extreme form of intervention in another person’s life because control over personal and/or financial decisions is transferred to someone else for an indefinite, often permanent, period of time. Once established, it can be difficult to revoke. Therefore, guardianship should be used only as a last resort.

Less restrictive alternatives that can maintain the person safely in the community should be pursued. The following are common alternatives to guardianship that should be explored before determining that a guardianship or even a limited guardianship is necessary. 


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Social Security Representative Payee

If a beneficiary is unable to manage his or her benefit payments, a Representative Payee may be appointed. A Representative Payee is a person or organization the SSA selects to receive and manage benefits on behalf of an incapable or legally incompetent beneficiary. 


When People Need Help Managing Their Money

Special Needs Trust

Special Needs Trusts are set up to benefit an individual with a physical or mental disability. The trust is administered by a trustee, who manages the assets and income of the trust. The beneficiary of the trust cannot be the trustee. The assets of the trust are for the benefit of the person with the disability; however, the person with the disability has no power or authority to manage the trust assets.

Power of Attorney

There are several different kinds of Power of Attorney but each one must be granted by someone who is competent. This can be done either before a person loses mental capacity or during a period in which the person has regained capacity, if only temporarily.

In a Power of Attorney, one person gives another person (an attorney-in-fact) the legal authority to act on their behalf. The Power of Attorney either can become effective immediately or at a future time if the person becomes either temporarily or permanently unable to handle their affairs. The person decides how much or how little authority to give the attorney-in-fact. He or she may give the attorney-in-fact the authority to deal only with a specific piece of property or to do one specific act on the person’s behalf. Or, the person may give the attorney-in-fact the authority to handle most of their personal and financial matters.


Supported Decision-Making

Everyone needs help making decisions. Supported DecisionMaking (SDM) is a model for making choices with the help of others. SDM helps people with disabilities make decisions. You are the Decision-Maker. You may get help and advice from your Supporters. Anyone can use SDM. Supported Decision-Making can be informal or formal. You are at the center of the process.


Rethinking Guardianship   Supported Decision-Making



Adult guardianship is when a court decides that a person does not have the ability to manage their personal life, finances, or both. A person or agency is then “appointed” to make choices for that person. Some guardianships are limited. This means that the person can make choices about some areas of life but the guardian makes decisions about others.


Understanding Guardianship

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