Does Georgia Have Assisted Decision-Making?
We often hear from clients who are curious about assisted decision-making, sometimes also called supported decision-making. In fact, one of our most frequently asked questions is whether Georgia has a supported decision-making policy on the books. Families want to learn more about this newer development in special needs law, find out what sets it apart from guardianship and determine if it could be a fit for their loved one.
What is supported decision-making?
The idea of supported decision-making began garnering U.S. interest in the early 2000s, but it wasn’t until 2015 that a state passed a supported decision-making bill. Today, Texas, Indiana, North Dakota, Nevada, Rhode Island, Delaware, Alaska, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia have supported decision-making laws in place. Georgia, however, does not have a supported decision-making law.
Supported decision-making is meant to offer some legal structure to the more informal arrangements people with special needs often make in order to manage finances, medical decisions and other areas of life. It is more flexible than guardianship, and it assumes that the individual with special needs has the capacity to make decisions with assistance.
With supported decision-making, the individual with special needs chooses supporters from family members, friends or professionals. These supporters then help the individual process decisions and communicate them accurately. Supportive tasks might include taking notes during a medical appointment, talking over key decisions or helping handle financial matters. Where it’s law, supported decision-making allows financial and medical professionals to discuss or share information where appropriate.
How is it different from guardianship?
Of course, there are some criticisms of supported decision-making. The main concern is that supporters could potentially take advantage of the special needs individual. Another is that it has the potential to create an overly burdensome system in place of a more informal arrangement.
Supported decision-making is quite different from guardianship. With guardianship, a court-appointment guardian manages the ward’s healthcare and medical decisions, housing and food. (A conservator, often the same person as the guardian, manages finances, earnings and property.) While the guardian is expected to respect the ward’s rights and wishes, he or she makes the final decision on the ward’s behalf.
Supported decision-making presumes that the special needs individual is able to make decisions with help. The individual is also able to select multiple supporters to cover different areas (say, medical questions and financial issues). New supporters can be added. A monitor can also be put in place to supervise the process and pick up on any potential mismanagement or abuse.
Because these laws are still relatively new, we’ll likely continue to learn more about the ways in which supported decision-making helps special needs individuals or potentially leaves them vulnerable.
It’s important to remember that Georgia does not have a legal structure for supported decision making and take that into account as you are planning for the future. We’re always happy to discuss the options Georgia has in place to find the fit that’s right for your loved one.
Speak With an Atlanta Special Needs Lawyer
If you’re the parent or loved one of an individual with special needs, you’ll want help protecting his or her interests. At Nadler Biernath, we have experience seeking guardianship when it’s necessary. Call us today at 770-999-9799 to schedule your initial consultation to discuss how we can help.